Changing Planet

Woman Climbs 14 Highest Peaks Without Extra Oxygen

Reaching the top of K2 on her fourth attempt, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, a 40-year-old Austrian alpinist who resides in Germany, has become the first woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter (26,246 feet) peaks without using supplementary oxygen, National Geographic confirmed today.

Kaltenbrunner and her team reached the top of K2, Earth’s second-tallest mountain, at 6:20 p.m. (local time) Tuesday, August 23, National Geographic said in a news statement.

 

Gerlinde near Camp III with numerous unnamed 6,000- to 7,000-meter (20,000- to 23,000-foot) peaks in the background. For more photos of Gerlinde and this expedition, please visit the National Geographic Magazine digital feature Expedition: K2.
Photo credit: Darius Zaluski/National Geographic

 

Kaltenbrunner, supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, was one of four climbers to reach the summit of K2. Other team members to summit were Maxut Zhumayev and Vassiliy Pivtsov of Kazakhstan and Darius Zaluski of Poland. Kaltenbrunner’s husband, Ralf Dujmovits of Germany, and photographer Tomas Heinrich of Argentina had turned back to base camp August 19, judging the threat of an avalanche too great, National Geographic added.

Heinrich is documenting the expedition for an article for National Geographic magazine. The expedition is also chronicled online in photos and dispatches at Expedition: K2.

Here is the full National Geographic Society statement:

GERLINDE KALTENBRUNNER SETS CLIMBING RECORD
First Woman to Summit All 14 Major Peaks Without Supplementary Oxygen

WASHINGTON (August 25, 2011)—Reaching the top of K2 on her fourth attempt, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, a 40-year-old Austrian alpinist who resides in Germany, has become the first woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks without using supplementary oxygen. Kaltenbrunner and her team reached the top of K2, Earth’s second-tallest mountain, at 6:20 p.m. (local time) Tuesday, August 23.

Kaltenbrunner, supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, was one of four climbers to reach the summit of K2. Other team members to summit were Maxut Zhumayev and Vassiliy Pivtsov of Kazakhstan and Darius Zaluski of Poland. Kaltenbrunner’s husband, Ralf Dujmovits of Germany, and photographer Tomas Heinrich of Argentina had turned back to base camp Aug. 19, judging the threat of an avalanche too great. Heinrich is documenting the expedition for an article for National Geographic magazine.

The K2 achievement also was a milestone for Zhumayev and Pivtsov; the ascent of K2 fulfilled their dream of climbing all 14 of the 8,000-meter peaks without using extra oxygen, National Geographic’s statement said.

“I can’t believe how lucky we were to reach the summit together in this fantastic weather, despite the difficult conditions during the ascent,” Kaltenbrunner said. “I would like to thank everyone for their ‘mental support,’ which I could clearly feel and which literally carried me to the summit.”
In the days approaching the summit, the team waded through waist-deep snow and battled high winds, with avalanche conditions that for several days made the attempt at the summit look implausible.

According to alpine record-keeper Eberhard Jurgalski, before the achievement of Kaltenbrunner, Zhumayev and Pivtsov, only 24 people in the world had made it to the top of all 14 tallest mountains. This includes Dujmovits, who ascended K2 in 1994 and completed scaling the entire set of peaks two years ago. Only 10 of the 24 made the ascents without oxygen.

Kaltenbrunner and her team began the march to the K2 northern base camp from Xinjiang, China, on June 17. A group of camels ferried the team, their equipment and supplies to the Chinese base camp, about 3,900 meters high, crossing the wild Shaksgam Valley in the process. The team then ascended the peak via the North Pillar, a direct line to the summit, first climbed in 1982 by a Japanese team.

K2, located on the Pakistan-China border, is 8,611 meters (28,251 feet) high and part of the Karakoram Range. It has a reputation of being the hardest of the 8,000-meter-high mountains to climb, due chiefly to its steepness and the resulting technical-climbing challenges as well as unpredictable weather conditions. Since K2 was first summited by an Italian team in 1954, about 300 climbers have stood on top of the mountain, but many have perished trying. Kaltenbrunner’s attempt to summit K2 last year ended with the death of team member Fredrick Ericsson.

Team member Dujmovits reported on returning to base camp on Aug. 19 that five huge boulders had crashed through the unoccupied camp, destroying most of the tents.

Kaltenbrunner, originally from Spital am Pyhrn in Upper Austria, began climbing the mountains surrounding her hometown as a child. While studying to be a nurse, she spent her free moments skiing and climbing. At age 23 Kaltenbrunner realized her greatest dream — climbing an 8,000-meter peak — making it to the secondary summit of Pakistan’s Broad Peak, a height of 8,027 meters. She saved money she earned as a nurse to fund expeditions in the Himalaya region and Karakoram, becoming a full-time alpinist in 2003.

Besides the National Geographic Society’s Expeditions Council, supporters of the expedition include OMV, VKB Bank, BANNER Batterien, Schöffel Sportbekleidung, Gore-Tex footwear, LOWA, Deuter, Komperdell, Petzl, Valandré, adidas eyewear and Lorpen.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Thomas Beattie

    Fantastic news. I have been following up on on your progress and it is just amazing you managed to reach the summit and succeed it! K2 is the hardest mountain in the world to climb and reach the summit…. so many congratulations to the four that succeeded. A fantastic achievement,

  • Fahad Mudassar

    Amazing.

  • […] mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner reached K2’s summit along with three others from the National Geographic team. She is the third […]

  • Jenispek

    great achievement guys!

  • Dr Woo Hoo

    I’m just as impressed to see someone use their best judgment and turn back. That must be incredibly hard to do and requires a lot of character.

  • Fabien

    That’s totally brilliant. I’m amazed. It is a massive achievement.
    Congratulations to all of you.

  • Aadil Shirbeeni

    Nice!

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media