On Wednesday, Niels Jespers (35) became the first Belgian to reach the peak of the second-highest mountain on Earth, K2, without using supplementary oxygen.
Two years ago, Jespers also tried to climb the mountain, but he had to give up because of a frostbite injury. On his second try, he reached the peak of the 8,611 metre-high mountain on Wednesday around 9:30 AM local time.
K2 is the second-highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest, and is located on the Pakistan-China border in the Karakoram range.
“From time to time, I doubted that I would be able to do it, but because of all the friends and family who believed in it, I persevered,” he said in a recorded video message. “It was very heavy and intense, not something to do again just like that.”
His coach, Griet Veris, followed everything closely and followed his progress through the night using GPS trackers, she told VRT. “This morning, we got the message that he was on top. That was a powerful moment.”
“The weather was very good, there was no wind and he was even able to take drone shots at the top,” she said. “It was tough, but he managed to climb up very smoothly every day.”
“He is very strong, both physically and mentally. This really is a top performance.”
After some rest, Jespers is coming down from the mountain today/Thursday, which is an achievement in itself, according to Veris.
“He is only halfway now. After that, he is going to take some rest. This was a childhood dream of his, and he is probably going to enjoy the afterglow and take a rest,” she added.
K2 is known as one of the most dangerous and technically most difficult mountains to climb, with an estimated one in four climbers not surviving the trip.
In 2018, Paul Hegge (then 51 years old) already became the first Belgian who climbed the mountain. Unlike Jespers, however, he did use supplementary oxygen.