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A Tortoise File


How the forces of commerce and influencer culture collided this winter on one of the world’s most dangerous mountains


First published
Monday 15 March 2021

Last updated
Monday 15 March 2021

Why this file?

In the world of mountaineering, a “first” is the holy grail. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to summit Everest. Junko Tabei was the first woman to reach the peak; Reinhold Messener the first to climb it without oxygen. History will forever remember their names. But since summit fever of the 50s and 60s, the firsts are running out – and the ones that are left are the truly treacherous climbs, the sites of many failed expeditions, and many deaths. Which brings us to K2 in the winter of 2021 – and the story of a risky expedition that has divided the mountaineering world. It’s a remarkable story, in which the competing pressures of national glory, big sponsorship deals and “adventure influencers” all collided on one of the world’s most dangerous mountains. It’s a story of triumph, and of tragedy, and a very contemporary parable about risk in the age of social media.

Basia Cummings, Editor