Queenstowner’s K2 assault


A Queenstown mountain guide is set to become the first Kiwi man to climb the world’s second highest mountain, K2, since local Bruce Grant 20 years ago.

Mark Woodward, who’s summited the world’s highest mountain, Everest, nine times, is guiding for an expedition led by Himalayan Experience’s owner, New Zealander Russell Brice.

Woodward was one of a half- dozen Queenstowners - five climbers and a helicopter pilot - helping on Mt Everest in the aftermath of the recent Nepal earthquakes.

In 1995, Grant, then 31, summited K2 but perished in a brutal storm on the way down, along with five other climbers.

Since then, only one NZer, Christine Burke, has even attempted the challenging climb - she summited last year.

Local mountain guide Dave Macleod says the fact Grant, a Winter Olympian ski racer, achieved the feat without oxygen was amazing.

“He’s still been credited with the ascent.”

“He didn’t get a gold medal in Sarajevo [in the 1984 Winter Olympics] so his next goal was to climb K2 without oxygen, I guess the pure way.”

Macleod says the reason no other NZer has attempted K2 since is because amateur climbers normally can’t afford to join an expedition - and technically it’s a lot more difficult than even Mt Everest.

“The reason [Brice’s] expedition to K2 is going is that all the climbers on it have summited Everest, and they’ve got plenty of money.”

According to Himalayan Experience’s website, the 67-day expedition, limited to 12 clients along with four guides and Nepalese Sherpas, costs $50,000 to join.

Macleod says it’s “a unique situation” that Woodward’s following in Grant’s steps 20 years later.

“We only wish him the best.”

Woodward, he says, is NZ’s premier Himalayan mountaineer.

“He’s very capable, obviously, very experienced and very good at altitude - as laid-back as he is, he just takes it all in his stride.

“It’s not a given that [Brice] will get them to the top but there’s a fairly good chance with good weather and good acclimatisation that they’ll get up.”

Macleod says summiting K2 isn’t easier than it was 20 years ago.

In 2008, he notes, 11 climbers died after a large piece of ice fell during an avalanche.

Meanwhile, since Grant’s death, the Bruce Grant Youth Trust, set up in his memory, has raised more than $400,000 to help local youth further themselves in their arts, cultural and sporting endeavours.

Trustee Alison Beaumont says it’s very appropriate that Woodward’s climbing 20 years later.

“I feel excited for him - he goes with the goodwill of the Bruce Grant Youth Trust and all of us.”