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Taiwanese mountaineers to challenge K2, dubbed 'Savage Mountain'

2019/04/20 19:38:07

Chang Yuan-chih (張元植, right) and Lu Chung-han (呂忠翰)/Photo courtesy of Chang Yuan-chih

Taipei, April 20 (CNA) Two avid mountaineers will soon embark on a journey to try to become the first Taiwanese to conquer the summit of K2, formally called Mount Godwin-Austen or Chhogori.

Located on the China-Pakistan border, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world after Mount Everest, at a height of 8,611 meters above sea level.

K2 is also known for its extreme difficulty, and according to the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), it has the second-highest fatality rate among the 14 mountains of the world that are more than 8,000 meters high.

If successful, 31-year old Chang Yuan-chih (張元植) and 36-year old Lu Chung-han (呂忠翰) will write a new chapter for Taiwan's mountaineering community.

The last time a team from Taiwan attempted to reach the K2 summit was in 2000, but the challenge was foiled at 5,800 meters due to changing weather and the difficulty of the terrain.

No Taiwanese has ever succeeded in reaching the K2 summit, Chang said, and he and Lu are hoping to gain experience they can share with the people of Taiwan.

"Climbing the site has been a lifelong dream," Lu told reporters in a recent interview.

(Photo courtesy of the K2 Project)

Lu is a junior high school teacher by profession, while his partner works as a hiking guide. The two first teamed up in 2014, when they climbed Broad Peak, the 12th highest mountain in the world at 8,051 meters.

The two felt the best time to take on K2 was summertime, because most ascents there take place when the weather is warmer.

As far as Taiwan goes, K2 is relatively unknown to the average Joe, said Chan Wei-hsiung (詹偉雄), a cultural commentator.

According to Lu and Chang, they first met Chan last year while hiking mountains in Taitung County, and Chan decided to help them with their pursuit after hearing about their enthusiasm and joie de vivre.

Whether or not they succeed in reaching the summit, Chan said, the important thing will be that they can help open the eyes of Taiwan's people to this fascinating place.

To facilitate their summit challenge, Lu and Chang launched a fundraising campaign that Chan helped get going.

The fundraising campaign titled "K2 Project Chang Yuan-chih and Lu Chung-han eight-thousanders challenge," which started April 18, has so far garnered NT$1.8 million (US$58,364) as of 6 p.m. Saturday, exceeding their goal of NT$861,100, according to the campaign webpage (href="https://www.zeczec.com/projects/k2-project-x">https://www.zeczec.com/projects/k2-project-x).

The pair estimated that the expedition will cost NT$4 million.

The campaign is backed by many well-respected names in Taiwan's cultural community, including The Big Issue Taiwan editor-in-chief Fines Lee (李取中), members of the popular punk-rock band Fire EX, and most notably, Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君).

According to Chan, the two mountaineers left for Nepal on April 9 to hike Makalu at 8,485 meters as a warm-up, before returning home and preparing to take on K2 around mid-June.

(By Tsai Fan-min and Ko Lin)
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