Mountain climbing requires exceptional physical strength because it relies entirely on that. It’s an extreme sport that’s also somewhat of a gamble between life and death. Reaching the summit gives the climbers an undeniable and unforgettable sense of achievement because K2 is a beautiful mountain that many fall in love with at first sight.
It takes a lot of passion to stick to climbing even in the face of extreme exhaustion and pain. For many, being able to reach the top is the realization of childhood dreams. The footmen or porters, who help make those dreams a reality, sometimes carry up to 40 Kgs during those climbs although they are only paid for carrying 25Kg.
These men show up every year because they have no other source of income, even though it might mean an early death for them. So for three months, they walk with ridiculously heavy loads to their destination. Poverty is rampant among them but they risk their lives to provide for their families back home. Some of the footmen have large families with more than one wife and many kids. Believing birth control is up to God makes it harder to get out of poverty.
The climbing season lasts from May until August and that’s often the only time those families will get an income; they easily admit that they sit idly for six or seven months with nothing else to do. These men might not love the job, but illiteracy has placed a limit on their options.
Some of the younger generations see being a footman or porter as a curse and have bigger dreams for themselves. Whether they will be able to fulfill those dreams might not be entirely up to them.
Roughly for every 4 people who have summited, one has died. K2 is probably one of the hardest mountains to climb. According to the footmen, it’s better to die along the way where someone can see the grave and pray for them, rather than die on K2 where no one will ever hear about it. Is it worth it?
The porters complain that they work like beasts and don’t get enough food. The other side complains that sometimes the footmen are unkind, give up halfway through the trek, or start making unrealistic demands after there already was an agreement.