KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A team of 10 Nepalese climbers who became the first to scale the world’s second-highest peak during the harsh winter season received a hero’s welcome on return home to Nepal on Tuesday.
Mountaineers, supporters, friends and family lined the Kathmandu airport to greet the climbers with garlands and cheers as a police band played tunes. They were then driven around city in open trucks.
“As a team we feel really proud; we feel really honored. I think we sent a really clear message to the world, if we unite nothing is impossible, so everybody is happy here,” said Nirmal Purja, one of the members of the team who also holds the record for the fastest climb of the 14 highest peaks in the world.
The winter climb marks another achievement for Nepalese climbers who for decades worked as porters and guides for foreign mountaineers but now are setting their own records and running expeditions on the highest peaks.
“This expedition has risen the status of Nepali climbers to a new height, which is an achievement for all the mountaineering and shows that there is nothing that we cannot achieve if we attempt,” said Mingma Sherpa, who organized the expedition.
K2 is the most prominent peak on the Pakistani side of the Himalayan range, and is second in height only to Mount Everest. K2 had remained the last peak above 8,000 meters (26,240 feet) in the world that was yet to be climbed in the winter.
The Nepalese team made sure that all 10 members reached the summit at the same time.
“All 10 of us worked together in the same level. We all took a big risk to our lives. We felt like it has to be justice for every team member,” Purja said.