China/Pakistan (8,611 m) – 2nd Tallest Mountain in the World/Asia
The uninspiringly named K2 is the second highest mountain in the world after Everest. It is the highest peak of the Karakorum Mountains, which is adjacent to the Himalayas where China, India and Pakistan meet. Part of a mountain group that had the designations K1 through K5, the other peaks were later identified with their local names. However, interestingly, there was no native name for K2, so the survey designation stuck.
K2 is located on the border of China and Pakistan, though access on both sides of the border is remote and difficult. Like nearby Everest, the easier and primary routes to the mountain are on the south-facing sides away from China. K2 was first successfully climbed in 1954 by a team of mountaineers from Italy and Pakistan. The mountain has one of the highest mortality rates in the world, with one in five climbers dying on the way to the top.
Like Everest, getting to K2 is not for the feint of heart. The most accessible large town is Skardu. From there it can take as much as a week to trek to the K2 base camp. However, the route follows one of the spurs of the fabled silk road, and passes through the area which is believed to have been an inspiration for the mystical land of Shangri-La in James Hilton’s famous book Paradise Lost.