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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Over the mountain: Thirty years since Rick Ridgeway conquered K2

High up on K2 that September day 30 years ago, Rick Ridgeway was dying.

Without oxygen or ropes, his fingers brick hard and black with severe frostbite, Ridgeway inched toward K2's mighty summit near the Pakistan-China border.

This was before K2, at 28,251 feet the second highest rooftop after Mount Everest, got its reputation as the toughest mountain in the world to climb.

Ridgeway and climbing partner, John Roskelley, traversed a narrow gully later named the Bottleneck, directly beneath a towering wall, several hundred feet high, of overhanging ice — the same one that broke off this summer, killing 11 people.

Ridgeway and Roskelley escaped it only to find more trouble. Above the Bottleneck, they came to a series of steep and icy rocks that had to be traversed at an angle. It was crampons on edges; at one point, Ridgeway looked down and saw a glacier 12,000 feet below him. "The whole mountain seems to fall out under your feet there," he said. Read more...

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