Broad Peak is the 12th highest mountain in the world at 8,051 metres (many sources continue to list the height as 8,047 m, however this does not take into account a more accurate re-measurement referred to on the official Broad Peak website, listed in the endnotes.) It is located in a stretch of the Karakorum Range called the Gasherbrum Massif, on the border of Pakistan and China. Its original name was K3, one of a set of five high peaks first surveyed by Lieutenant T.G. Montgomerie of the British Army in 1856 which he named K1 to K5, due to the fact that they were five in number and that "Karakorum" begins with a K. This kind of iron logic and utter lack of aesthetic sensibility is what enabled the British Empire to look down on civilizations that were far older, richer and more cultured. The only one of these peaks to retain its old English name has been K2. K1, K3, K4 and K5 have taken on the new names Masherbrum, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum II and Gasherbrum I respectively.

K3's new name derives from its physical characteristics, and the fact that it had not been given a local name - its summit is a ridge that is over 1.5km long. Some people object to English names for non-English mountains, so the name P'alchan Kangri (sometimes mispronounced as Falchen Kangri) was created - this is a translation of Broad Peak into the local Tibetan dialect, Balti. In fact, there is some small disagreement as to whether Broad Peak really has two peaks. Its summit is so mounded with ancient snow that, since global warming has been causing the snow to melt relatively recently, its forepeak is in danger of becoming the actual summit, a fact not unwelcomed by climbers, since ascending the snow at the main summit is the most difficult part of the entire climb. Many climbers never reach the main summit, either not realizing that they have only reached the forepeak, or because they can't be bothered trekking the extra hour along the ridge to reach a point only 40m higher.

The first ascent was made in 1957 by a group of Austrians - Marcus Schmuck, Fritz Wintersteller, Kurt Diemberger and Hermann Buhl. This ascent was remarkable for its time, being an alpine style climb without oxygen or a large supporting crew - however, they did make use of many ropes laid by an unsuccessful attempt 3 years earlier by Fritz Wintersteller and Kurt Diemberger. One of the main reasons that many climbers ascend Broad Peak is to acclimatise themselves for an alpine style ascent of the much more difficult K2, which is only 8km away.

The relative ease of climbing Broad Peak can be seen by the fact that in 1984 a Polish climber, Krzysztof Wielicki, managed to make the entire trip from base camp to summit and back again in 22 hours in an amazing solo run. However, this should not lead anyone to believe that any ascent of an 8000-metre mountain can be "easy". Weather conditions on Broad Peak are as treacherous as they always are at that altitude. As of 2006 there have been 284 successful ascents to the main summit, and 19 deaths, 4 of those on the way back down.


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