A Russian team of mountain climbers is undertaking an expedition that no human has ever accomplished—scaling K2 ... during winter. The 15 adventurers will face temperatures colder than 50 below zero and ferocious 40mph winds in an attempt to ascend the second-highest peak in the world, which lies on the border of China and Pakistan. What's behind the attempt? Winter conquests of the planet's 14 "eight-thousanders" (mountains more than 8,000 meters, or five miles, tall) are coveted feats in the sport of mountaineering, reports the AP.
Everest was the first to be scaled in the cold season, in 1980, but K2, which is notorious for its harsher winters and vertiginous slopes, has yet to be successfully climbed during winter. A Polish climber who attempted to do so in 1987 reported just 10 days of good weather in his 80 days on the mountain; his team only got as high as 7,300 meters before turning back, frostbitten, their tents and ropes ripped away by the wind. Indeed, winds are more vicious, and temps are twice as cold, making frostbite more dangerous. There's also less daylight and more snow, upping the risk of avalanche. The Russian team will begin its journey, which is expected to take 2.5 months, around Christmas. (Read more K2 stories.)