The Gasherbrum massif is a group of mountain peaks in the Karakoram Range of the Himalayas, at the north-eastern end of the Baltoro Glacier in Pakistan. The meeting-point of the Baltoro Glacier and the Godwen-Austen Glacier in this region of Pakistan is called Concordia, after a similar region in the Central Alps. Concordia has a reputation as providing among the most spectacular and unspoiled views in the world, and is a very important staging area for ascents of the greatest Karakoram peaks, including K2. The Gasherbrum massif contains 7 peaks of 6900+ metres, and three 8000-metre peaks:
Name Height Prominence
Gasherbrum I 8,080m 2,155m
Broad Peak 8,047m 1,701m
Gasherbrum II 8,035m 1,523m
Gasherbrum III 7,952m 355m
Gasherbrum IV 7,925m 725m
Gasherbrum V 7,147m 654m
Gasherbrum VI 6,979m 520m
Often translated as "Shining Wall", Gasherbrum actually dervies from the Balti words "rgasha" (beautiful) and "brum" (mountain) - hence, Beautiful Mountain. This massif was first surveyed in 1856 by Lieutenant T.G. Montgomerie of the British army, who in a masterpiece of rational economy, named the five tallest peaks that he could see in the Karakorum Range K1, K2, K3, K4 and K5. The only one of these peaks to retain this designation is K2 - K1 is now called Masherbrum, K3 is Broad Peak, and K4 and K5 are, respectively, Gasherbrum II and Gasherbrum I.
The 11th-highest mountain in the world, also known as K5 and Hidden Peak, is on the Kashmiri-Chinese border, and was named "Hidden Peak" by William Martin Conway in 1892 due to its remoteness. It was first attempted in 1934 by a Swiss expedition led by G.O. Dyhrenfurth, which got to 6,300 metres - although the main purpose of the expedition was really to reconnoitre the two peaks Gasherbrum I and II. Another, French expedition made it to 6,900 metres in 1936. Gasherbrum I was not actually summited until 1958, by an American team led by Nich Clinch. First to reach the summit were Pete Schoening and Andy Kauffman.
In 1975 Gasherbrum I became the first 8000-metre peak to be climbed in pure alpine style, by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler. This means that they started their climb from the true bottom of the mountain, carrying all their own equipment; the route was not prepared in advance, and any camping was done in improvised bivouacs along the way; no rope was used, and even more importantly, no supplementary oxygen. They accomplished this feat in a swift 2-day climb.
G1 has both a low climbing rate and a low fatality rate - out of 195 summits, there have been 21 deaths, a rate of 10.77%, only slightly higher than that of Everest despite Gasherbrum's remoteness. In fact, its remoteness may contribute to this low death rate, since only experienced climbers tend to tackle this mountain, with amateurs and less experienced mountaineers tending to go for the more well-known or accessible peaks.
On June 18, 2008 a French extreme skier, Jean-Noel Urban, died trying to ski down G1. He had previously skied successfuly down Cho Oyu and Gasherbrum II, and made partial ski descents of Shisha Pangma and Manaslu, and he was attempting G1 with Nicholas Brun when he fell into a large crevasse on his way from Camp 2 to Base Camp.
Also located on the Pakistani-Chinese border, Gasherbrum II (also known as K4) is the 13th-highest mountain in the world, and the 3rd-highest in the Karakoram Range. It has a reputation as one of, if not the easiest 8000-metre mountain to summit. It has in common with Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak, and all the other peaks around Concordia, that none of them are visible from any inhabited location on Earth.
Despite this remoteness, 650 successful climbs have been made to Gasherbrum II's summit, with only 17 deaths. Looking at the statistics since 1990, the fatality rate drops spectacularly even from this modest level - out of 457 summits, only 2 deaths have occurred. This makes G2 possibly the safest of all the 8000-metre peaks to climb, and an excellent starting-point for inexperienced climbers wishing to make a gentle start to a career of climbing the world's tallest mountains. The standard route, via the southwest ridge, avoids technical difficulties and hazards such as ice falls and avalanches, that cause most of the deaths on the more dangerous peaks. It has also been liberally roped by previous expeditions, providing extra safety in any challenging spots. However, like all of the 8000-metre peaks in the Karakoram range, no winter ascents have yet been made. The remoteness and severe weather makes climbing these peaks in winter extremely dangerous even for an "easy" giant like G2.
Climbing and Fatality Statistics: http://www.k2climb.net/story/GasherbrumIKillerMountainsanExplorersWebseriesSep22003.shtml
Jean-Noel Urban: http://skinnymoose.com/adventurist/2008/06/21/jean-noel-urban-french-extreme-skier-killed-in-accident-on-gasherbrum-i/
Gasherbrum Massif: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasherbrum
Climbing and Fatality Statistics: http://www.k2climb.net/story/GASHERBRUMIIKillerMountainsanExplorersWebseriesSep52003.shtml