Belgian climber Niels Jespers conquers K2


Although Kaitu, or K2 (8,611m), is only 237 metres lower than Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, it is known for its steepness, its many gorges, rock falls and risks of avalanche. Niels Jespers, 35, is the first Belgian to conquer the mountain without oxygen or the help of Sherpas.

This abbreviation does not mean much to the general public, but for climbers it is the holy grail. In 1856, British Colonel Thomas George Montgomerie described the Karakoram Mountains on the border of Pakistan and China. He carefully numbered the successive peaks he encountered, five in all, as K1, K2, K3, K4 and K5. Only K2 has kept its original number, as it sounds like ketu in a local language. The Italian climbers Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni were the first to reach the summit of K2, on 31 July 1954. Night was falling and Compagnoni wanted to postpone their return to the following day. Lacedelli knew that this would mean their death. It was only by threatening to strike his companion with his ice axe that he made Compagnoni change his mind immediately.


While Mount Everest has been climbed several thousand times, only 400 climbers have made the perilous journey to the top of Killer Mountain. The descent is particularly noted for its difficulty. Niels managed to accomplish the feat thanks to his robust physique and his enormous perseverance - he had reached the summit of Broad Peak (K3) a few days previously.