Conquering K2

Conquering K2

In 2011, mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner became the first woman to summit all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen by completing a daring climb of K2.


6 - 12+


Arts and Music, Geography

NG Live

This video was filmed on February 13, 2012 as part of the National Geographic Live! Lecture series at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner's interest in mountain climbing developed while she was growing up in Spital am Pyhrn, Austria. At the age of 13, Kaltenbrunner ventured up her first major peak, "Sturzhahn," a 2,028-meter (6,654 foot) climb. After that experience she rarely skipped an opportunity to go climbing. Her greatest dream—climbing an 8,000-meter (26,247 foot) peak—came true at the age of 23, when she succeeded in climbing the fore-summit of Broad Peak in Pakistan, at a height of 8,027 meters (26,335 feet). She then put the money she earned as a nurse into different trekking and climbing expeditions to the Himalaya. After climbing the Nanga Parbat—her fifth 8,000-meter peak—in 2003, she decided to become a professional mountain climber. Today, National Geographic Explorer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has climbed all 14 main peaks in the 8,000-meter series. When she reached the summit of K2 (8,611 meters or 28,251 feet), she became the first woman to scale all 8,000-meter peaks without supplementary oxygen. In 2012, Kaltenbrunner was named National Geographic Explorer of the Year.


  • Several unsuccessful attempts of climbing K2, and deciding to try one more time (start-4:20 min.)

  • Animation: the route up K2 (4:21-4:52 min.)

  • How weather influences decisions on a climb (4:53-5:44 min.)

  • Unable to make the ascent: Ralph (Gerlinde's husband) turns back (5:45-7:25 min.)

  • Continuing onward and upward: battling snow and wind (7:26-9:10 min.)

  • Difficulties on the final ascent: spin drifts and avalanche danger (9:11-11:01 min.)

  • Oxygen at 8,000 meters: giving themselves time to adapt by camping one more night (11:02-12:01 min.)

  • A dream come true: perfect conditions, willpower, and teamwork allow for a successful summit (12:02-14:33 min.)

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Page Producers
Nina Page, National Geographic Society
Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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