Out of the fourteen mountains on earth that reach over 8000 meters (26,247 feet) in height, Mount Everest lays claim to the title of the most well-known, at least in the public eye. But while Everest is respected among mountaineering circles, it isn’t the most challenging peak to ascend. The world’s second-highest mountain, K2, takes that crown because of unforgiving weather conditions, knife-edge ridges and steep pitches that leave climbers dangerously exposed to the harsh elements that sweep through Karakoram mountain range on the Pakistan-China border.
In 2011, Austrian mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner summited K2 and became the first woman to climb all fourteen “eight-thousanders” without the use of supplementary oxygen. She had previously made six attempts on K2, all of which were unsuccessful, including a 2010 trip with extreme skier Frederik Ericsson who perished in a fall about 1300 feet from the summit.
Kaltenbrunner described her experiences on K2, including her desire to return to the summit on National Geographic Live.