Women mountain climbers from Pakistan, Iran reach K2 summit

Pakistani mountaineer Samina Baig flashes a victory sign while she poses for a photograph outside a hotel, in Skardu, Pakistan, on June 17, 2021. Baig from Pakistan and another from Iran appear to be the first females from their countries to reach the top of K2, one of the world's highest and most dangerous summits, a mountaineering official said Friday, July 22, 2022. (AP Photo/M.Z. Balti) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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ISLAMABAD (AP) — A woman from Pakistan and another from Iran appeared to be the first from their countries to scale K2 on Friday, the world's second-highest mountain and one of the most dangerous summits, a mountaineering official said. A second Pakistani woman scaled the summit minutes later.

Samina Baig, a 32-year-old from a remote northern village in Pakistan, was the first to hoist her country's green and white flag atop the peak of the 28,250 foot-high (8,610 meter) K2.

Iran's Afsaneh Hesamifard followed shortly after and was hailed for her achievement in Farsi-language posts on social media. According to Iranian media, she became only the third woman to scale Mount Everest in May.

The two were among several women to successfully reach K2's peak on Friday, according to Karrar Haidri, chief officer of the Pakistan Alpine Club, which helps coordinate the climbs from the government side and responds in the event of an emergency.

Haidri said a second Pakistani female climber, Naila Kiyani, was among the team of women to reach the top of K2 but it appears that Baig had scaled the summit a few minutes earlier.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif congratulated both Pakistani women, saying they proved that women were not behind men in the sports of mountain climbing. The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan congratulated the Pakistani women on Twitter while the Iranian diplomatic mission in Pakistan tweeted congratulations to Hesamifard.

K2, on the Chinese-Pakistani border in the Karakorum Range, has one of the deadliest records, with most climbers dying on the descent, where the slightest mistake can trigger an avalanche and become fatal. Only a few hundred have successfully reached its summit. In contrast, Mount Everest has been summited more than 9,000 times.

Separately, Haidri said Afghan climber, Ali Akbar Sakki, died on Thursday due to a heart attack while attempting to scale K2. He was part of the team of climbers who reached its summit Friday.

Considered extremely difficult to climb, K2 is not only the second-highest mountain after Mount Everest, its ascent and descent are considered much more challenging that the world's highest.

K2 is also the coldest and windiest of climbs. At places along the route, climbers must navigate nearly sheer rock faces rising 80 degrees, while avoiding frequent and unpredictable avalanches.

The latest record comes a day after Nepalese climber Sanu Sherpa set a new mountaineering record for twice reaching the peak of each of the world's 14 highest mountains.

Earlier this month, Pakistan's military airlifted two Pakistani climbers, including the man who became the youngest to scale K2 to safety after the pair went missing during an expedition scaling Nanga Parbat, known as “Killer Mountain” because of its dangerous conditions.