Everest and K2 without oxygen

Mount Everest, 2005.

K2 (8,611m), view from Broad Peak
(courtersy of Sir Doug Scott).

It is every serious mountaineer's dream to climb the world's two highest peaks, Everest and K2 (8,611m), without using supplementary oxygen to compensate for the extremely thin air. Many try, but few succeed.

As of 2002, fewer than 6 per cent, or 88 of the 1,500 or so who reached the summit of Everest did it without oxygen.

K2, being a far more treacherous climb, had only 196 summitters as of May 2002, 129 of them without oxygen. In all 52 died on K2, 22 of them perishing during descent after having summitted. That means, more than one in 10 K2 summitters died. It is an infamous fact that K2 has the highest percentage of fatalities of summitters during descent on all mountains.

It is Robert's dream to take on these two mountains without oxygen to push his limits and meet one of the toughest challenges in the sport.

Preparation for this dream began in 2002, when Robert summitted Xixabangma's central summit (8,012m) in alpine style, without oxygen, without guides or sherpas, without pre-built camps or fixed ropes. That achievement gave him the confidence that his dream of climbing Everest and K2 without oxygen was within his grasp.

An attempt on Everest in 2005 with climbing buddy, Everest summitter Edwin Siew, was thwarted by bad weather. Another attempt in 2007 resulted in Robert sustaining 2 cracked ribs at the Balcony of Everest at 8400m, Robert's personal best at high altitude mountaineering.

In 2008, Edwin and Robert attempted K2 with their Nepali friends Kami and Jamling. They reached camp 4 around 8000m for acclimatization and rested in camp 3 on 30 Sep 2008 . At that time, the first attempt for the summit by other teams was underway . The next day, serac falls and avalanches killed 11 climbers in one of the worst tragedies on K2. With a grief - filled basecamp and the closing of the season, the team returned with a heavy heart.

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