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K2: The Mountain
Pictures showing the K2 and its location on Pakistan.
The K2 is one of the highest mountains on the face of the Earth, the second-highest to be precise after Mount Everest. The peak elevation of this monstrous mountain is of over 8600 meters. The K2 is part of the Karakoram segment of the Himalayan range lying on the Northernmost edge of Pakistan's territory. It is widely known as the Savage Mountain because of how difficult it is to ascend and because of the lives it has taken from those who have tried to climb it. The K2 has a dark heritage stained with the blood of many and the Savage Mountain is much more grim than a nickname. Currently it is has 3rd highest fatality rate among the world's highest peaks: it is often said that for every four people that have reached the summit, one has died trying.
K2: The Name
The name of the mountain originally came from the Great Trigonometric Survey. It was Mr. Thomas Montgomery who first made the survey of the Karakoram and found these two magnificent peaks. He named them K1 and K2. It is interesting that even though it was a policy of the Great Trigonometric Survey to use the local names for mountains whenever they were available, this mountain appeared not to have been given a name by the locals. By contrast the K1 was found to have the local name of Masherbrum.
There are several possible causes that could explain the lack of a local name for the K2. Most think that this lack of name was due to the remoteness of the mountain. The K2 is not visible from Askole which is the last village to the South, nor from the nearest settlement to the north and can only be glimpsed from the end of the Baltoro Glacier, already a remote location and a place beyond which few people would have dared to venture.
A number of names, both local and from western origin, have been suggested for the K2 but the local names have not proven to be supported and the western names have not been approved. The Royal Geographical Society has been very strict about this, which is a topic you'll be likely to hear about if you learn French in Toronto, since a number of proposals come from there. K2, originally a surveyor's mark, continues to be the most common name by which the mountain is called. The name has made its way to the Balti language and Fosco Maraini (an Italian climber) suggest that such a clipped and frigid name might actually be very appropriate for a mountain so remote and alien. According to his own words K2 was:
(...) just the bare bones of a name, all rock and ice and storm and abyss. It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars. It has the nakedness of the world before the first man - or of the cindered planet after the last.
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