Why K2 is a harder climb than Mt. Everest

Vanessa O’Brien is an expert mountaineer. She is the fastest woman to climb the highest peak on every continent and the first American and British woman to climb K2, the second-highest mountain in the world.

Here, we talk with her about why Mt. Everest isn’t the hardest mountain in the world to climb, and why so fewer who attempt K2 ever make it to the top. You can learn more about O’Brien’s adventures by following her on Facebook and Twitter. Following is a transcript of the video.

So when comparing Everest versus K2, they are very, very different.

First, you have two different countries. You have Nepal versus Pakistan so I’d say technically it’s more challenging to get to Pakistan to get the visas, the logistics.

You’ve got different tracks in, so the track into Pakistan to get to K2 base camp involves traveling over a glacier. A glacier is harder to climb, you’ve got mixed rock, which makes twisting an ankle very, very easy.

When you’re going up to Everest Base Camp, you’re just on a dirt trail so it’s very, very easy.

Also, when you’re traveling on K2, you’re packing your whole expedition and you’re building tents along the way, when you’re traveling to Everest Base Camp, you’re staying at teahouses so you don’t have to travel in tents.

When you’re on the actual climb, K2 is shaped like a triangle so it’s demanding 110% day one, whereas Everest, there’s twists and turns, so it’s not always climbing steep.

Weather is much more unpredictable on K2 and I would say the technical climbing on K2 is hard so Everest has the Hillary step, which everyone’s heard about, that’s one obstacle. But for the most part it’s pretty — the paths are well laid-out because a lot of people climb Everest every year where K2, there is very few expeditions that climb because there’s such an unpredictability of summits.

And it’s more technical so, it’s more of a mixed rock, ice, and alpine climb so you have places like House’s Chimney and Black Pyramid, which are hard rock climbs in the middle of an alpine climb. So very, very different.

If I look statistically, there’s a 40% chance of no summits in any one year so this is a really tough mountain. There’s less than 400 summits overall compared to Everest’s 7500 summits so just remarkably how much harder K2 is every season that presents itself.

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Author Since: Sep 20, 2018

  1. Wait what ? Your opening comment is dumb, every 4 that summits K2 one dies, and for every 20 that summit Everest only one summits K2 ? wtf …you don't follow up with how many die to make it an even comparison ? This video is even insulting to a non climber like myself, it comes off as arrogant as hell….mountaineers can all blow me.

  2. I admire her accomplishments and the records she has set, and she sums up the differences between Everest and K2 clearly here. I wonder why she looks and sounds like she's on the verge of tears?

  3. By that sence climbing on roof of house is difficult then climbing on k2. the most important thing is who reach the top of world because nobody care who reach second top part of world.

  4. I went.to climb k2 got my visa to pakistan but when i arrived they put me back on a plane and sent me to new delhi i was.surprised to find k2 is actually in bollywood. This goes out to all the indians

  5. Fun fact. As Pakistan dont provide visa to indians. so indians are the only nationality that can't visit k2. they can only see k2 in youtube videos and comment out of frustration .now im waiting for a lundian to reply on my comment to prove his frustration

  6. for everyone who says Everest is Easy it because of the Sherpas…No-one can climb Everest without the help of sherpas…the sheer altitude is enough o kill you..
    Climb Everest without the aid of sherpas, then we can have a discussion….all these fancy climbs on Everest should be banned…then people will know how difficult Everest is …
    How many of the people who are commenting that Everest is easy to climb actually climb the Everest??? No one..coz who climbs will never tell such things…
    Anyways, if it is about considering only technical section, unpredictable weather, avalanche risk, then Mt Annapurna is more difficult as it has more fatality percentage than Mt K2..

  7. I'd attempt to climb K2 in flip flops after having drunk a bottle of whisky and smoke a reefer if the prize was marrying Vanessa O'Brien. She's beyond awesome in every way.

  8. K 2 is proud of Pakistan new government in Pakistan is taking some serious steps to facilitate tourist visa and will issue on arrival visa for some of the countries …!