VIENNA: Austrian climber Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner became the first woman to conquer all 14 8,000-metre summits without artificial oxygen Tuesday, when she reached the top of the K2, her team announced.
“Summit reached!! At 6:18 pm local time, Gerlinde reached the summit of K2,” Kaltenbrunner’s husband and frequent climbing partner Ralf Dujmovits said in an update on her website.
Kaltenbrunner, 40, is the third woman only to climb all 14 highest summits but the first to do so without artificial oxygen.
She had already attempted the 8,611-metre (28,251-feet) K2, on the border between China and Pakistan, six times before but had to turn back each time before the summit.
On Tuesday, she was accompanied on her way to the top by the Kazakh climbers Maxut Zumayev and Vassiliy Pivtsov, and Darek Zaluski of Poland.
The team had set off on this expedition over two months ago, with the plan to attack the K2 — the world’s second tallest mountain after Mount Everest, but considered much more dangerous — from the Chinese north side for the first time.
Kaltenbrunner had so far only attempted the summit from the Pakistani side.
On Tuesday morning, the team had to abandon a first attempt to reach the summit due to the intense cold and set off again at 7:30 am local time, with cloudless weather helping their ascent, Dujmovits said in an update on her website.
Dujmovits had been following the climbers’ progress from their base camp by radio and binoculars.
In 2009, Kaltenbrunner gained fame when she came close to being the first woman to scale all “eight-thousanders”.
She eventually lost the three-part race to South Korea’s Oh Eun Sun, who was followed shortly thereafter by Spain’s Edurne Pasaban.
Doubts have been raised however over whether Oh really conquerred Mount Kanchenjunga.
Tuesday’s victory marks the end of Kaltenbrunner’s 8,000-metre-summit race that began in May 1998 with her escalation of Cho Oyu on the border between Nepal and Tibet.
Austrian President Heinz Fischer congratulated Kaltenbrunner, praising an “incredible effort”.
The first person to scale the world’s 14 highest peaks in 1986 was the Italian Reinhold Messner.