Chart: The Story of K2 Ascents with Tableau – Part 2

Last week I presented the first part of my chart on the story of K2 ascents, that is, the ascents of one of the toughest and most respected mountains in the world.

I promised a part 2 and here it is. In this second part I focus more on the temporal trends I could find in the data.

In these charts the routes are organized row by row and time is on the horizontal axis as usual.

Additional Encoding

  • Color = Nation
  • Size = Number of climbers

Little Tricks
The first little trick here is to sort the routes according to the time when the route was used with success for the first time. I’ve also added a line that connects all the first ascents to ease the eye in following all the first ascents for each track.

The second trick is to layer a soft grey band on top of each route that starts from the first time a route has been climbed up to the last. In this way it is easier to spot how much activity has been going on in a given route.

Facts and Trends

In this chart you can easily see that the traditional SE Ridge (Abruzzi Spur) is again by far the most used and has a steady set of climbers every year.

Oh well … of course you can also see the Italians climbed it first in 1954 and that it took quite some time to any other nation to repeat it (I am sorry I couldn’t resist highlighting this).

But we have other interesting facts. NE Ridge has been climbed only once by the Americans. SSE Ridge has not been climbed until mid-nineties but then it turned into a classic like the Abruzzi Spur. The North Ridge has also been climbed quite frequently, followed by the West Ridge and the Magic Line. The other routes have all been climbed only once.

Note the West Face! It’s been climbed only once by a good number of Russian climbers (11 people) all in 2007.

You can also notice that many firts ascents have been made by the Japanese which as we saw already in the first part are by far the biggest lovers of this mountain.

And if you give a look to the slope of the line that connects the first ascents you can see that almost every 5 years about a couple of new routes have been climbed, starting from the seventies up to mid-nineties.

And what about the oxygen?

As usual segmenting the data according to an interesting parameter always brings new stuff to light. Here is the same data as before, organized in the same way but color is mapped to oxygen use (blue with, orange without).

Of course the Italians are still the first ones (did I say that?) but the Americans hold an important record too: they were the first to summit K2 without oxygen (by the way, there is a very long debate on whether the Italians climbed with or without oxygen, but this is too long to discuss here).

Isn’t surprising to see how many ascents have been done without oxygen? This is something I didn’t really expect. More surprising though, is that many of the first ascents are in fact ascents without oxygen! Almost all the new routes climbed after mid-eighties for the first time are without oxygen.

Do you know anyone of these climbers? I’d love to speak with one of them for at least half an hour. How does it feel like climbing a new K2 route without a mask and succeeding?

Ok folks that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed the K2 story. Of course during the design of these charts I’ve learned a lot about Tableau and as I said I am in a love and hate relationship with it (more love recently).

I plan to write something about it soon. If there is anything you would like to know on a technical level on how I built these charts let me know. I’d be happy to share it.

Take care. Have fun. Tweet me if you like it or have questions.



First part of the K2 chart (you find the data there too)

Wikipedia entry for K2 (good overview on the history of ascents) (lots of stats on adventures)

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