The most common climbing route that climbers take to ascend K2 is the Abruzzi Spur or the Southeast Ridge. The ridge and route looms menacingly above Base Camp on the Godwin-Austen Glacier on the south side of the mountain. The Abruzzi Spur route climbs steep snow and ice slopes broken by rock ribs and a couple cliff bands that are surmounted with technical climbing.
K2's Most Popular Route
About three-quarters of all the climbers who ascend K2 do the Abruzzi Spur. Likewise, a majority of deaths occur along its well-traveled ridge. The route is named for Italian climber Prince Luigi Amedeo, the Duke of Abruzzi, who led an expedition to K2 in 1909 and made the first attempt on the ridge.
The Abruzzi Spur is Long
The route, beginning at the base of the ridge at 17,390 feet (5,300 meters) ascends 10,862 feet (3,311 meters) to K2's summit at 28,253 feet (8,612 meters). The sheer length of the route, coupled with the severe weather conditions and objective dangers, make the Abruzzi Spur one of the most difficult and dangerous common routes on the world's 8,000-meter peaks.
Major Topographic Features
Major topographical features on K2's Abruzzi Spur route are The House Chimney, The Black Pyramid, The Shoulder, and The Bottleneck. Each offers its own set of technical difficulties and dangers. The Bottleneck, located below a 300-foot-high hanging ice cliff, is particularly dangerous since parts can break off at any time, either killing or stranding climbers above it as happened in the 2008 tragedy.
Base Camp and Advanced Base Camp
Climbers set up Base Camp on the Godwin-Austen Glacier below the great south wall of K2. Later, Advanced Base Camp is usually moved to the base of the Abruzzi Spur itself a mile farther up the glacier. The route is divided by camps, which are located at various points on the mountain.