Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has climbed all 14 of the “Eight-thousanders” (the earth’s 14 mountains that are higher than 8,000 meters). When she reached the summit of K2 in 2011, she became the first woman to scale all of the Eight-thousanders without the use of supplementary oxygen. In addition to her passion for climbing the high mountains of the Himalaya, she also is enchanted with the people and culture of the region.
Her achievement earned her recognition as one of National Geographic’s 2012 Adventurers of the Year.
Kaltenbrunner’s primary goal for her 2011 K2 climb, featured in National Geographic magazine in April 2012, was to climb K2 from the remote Chinese side, along the most dangerous route. Known as the mountaineer’s mountain, K2 has taken the life of roughly one climber for every four who have succeeded in making the summit. On this expedition, heavy snowfall just before the team’s summit attempt increased the danger of avalanches on the mountain’s steep slope. The team faced many critical decisions. Two members, including her husband Ralf, decided to abandon the climb halfway through. Kaltenbrunner pushed on with three other climbers, and, despite the dangers, reached the summit first—making mountaineering history.