National Geographic Live: Student Matinee

National Geographic Live: Student Matinee

Mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner

Monday, February 22, 2016
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Kaltenbrunner on K2, photo by Ralf Dujmovits.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner didn’t climb K2 because she wanted to the world’s first woman to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks without oxygen. But that’s exactly what she did. She grew up skiing in the mountains of her native Austria, then worked as a nurse, on weekends climbing the local alps. Her unstoppable appetite for adventure finally drove her to break a trail into the male domain of high altitude mountaineering.

Kaltenbrunner’s primary goal for her K2 climb, featured in National Geographic April 2012, was to be part of a team effort co-led with her husband Ralf Dujmovits, climbing 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’ve 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 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 as she did. 

Her achievement earned her recognition as one of National Geographic Adventure’s Adventurers of the Year. Meet this astonishing mountaineer and share the dramatic story of how she prepared for and triumphed on K2, told with breathtaking photos and video from the roof of the world.

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