K2 is the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 metres (28,251 feet) above sea level, but it’s considered far more deadly than Mount Everest due to its death rate of over 25%. Sandro Gromen-Hayes, a British photographer, not only climbed the K2, but also flew his DJI Air 2S drone to shoot one of the best mountain videos ever!
As a result of its lack of oxygen over its 8,000-meter summit, K2 is known as the “Savage Mountain.” After failing to summit in 1953, George Bell famously declared, “this is a savage mountain that tries to kill you.”
A small, off-the-shelf machine isn’t fond of high altitudes, either. For example, the $999 Air 2S has a maximum service ceiling of 5,000 meters. The drone’s performance cannot be guaranteed above 5,000 meters.
Despite the current altitude record, Gromen-Hayes hopes to one day claim the holy grail of high-altitude drones: a record-breaking flight to the moon.
“I first tried to fly a drone above 8,000m on Manaslu (fore) summit, [but] the controller died before I could take off and I got frostnip trying to sort it out,” Gromen-Hayes says. “On Everest, I got close at 7,900 m, but a windy summit day made it dead weight.”
“On K2 winter, I flew at 7,100m. The drone kept falling out of the sky and Nims turned me around,” Gromen-Hayes recalls.
“This year, the stars aligned and I flew from the summit of K2 at 8,611m.”
K2 is currently the world’s most contested mountain, with this year welcoming a record number of climbers — and perhaps more are on their way.
We will face great adversity, struggle, and danger to reach the summit. However, for some of us, getting there will cost everything and we may never return.