This fast-paced, three-part narrative takes readers on three expeditions over 15 years to K2, one of the deadliest mountains on Earth. Roped together, these teams of men face perilously high altitudes and battering storms in hopes of reaching the summit. As each expedition sets out, they carve new paths along icy slopes and unforgiving rock, creating camps on ledges so narrow they fear turning over in their sleep.
But disaster strikes -- in 1939, four men never make it down the mountain. Fourteen years later, a man develops blood clots in his legs at 25,000 feet, leaving his team with no safe path off the mountain. Filled with displays of incredible strength and heart-stopping danger, Into the Clouds tells the incredible stories of the men whose quest to conquer a mountain became a battle to survive the descent.
Numerous suspenseful survival stories make up this detailed portrayal of three attempts by 20th-century Americans to reach the summit of the 28,250-foot-high Himalayan peak known as K2, the world's second highest. Opening at a critical moment in the final attempt, in 1953, the book circles back to the first expedition in 1938, then continues chronologically back to that opening moment. Climbers are introduced with identifying characteristics, and the arduous climbs, executed in the face of unrelenting dangers such as blizzards, frostbite, and lack of oxygen, are replayed in gripping, step-by-step descriptions. Olson emphasizes the vital roles played by Sherpas and other groups who served as porters, taking care to outline the vast differences between the white climbers' and the Sherpas' clothing, gear, and conditions, and the occasional power struggles that arose between the two groups. Filled with tense moments, the book explores the question of what draws people to risk their lives climbing hostile mountains, as well as the importance of strong leadership, loyalty, and "the fellowship of the rope." Black-and-white photos underscore the life-threatening nature of these historic expeditions. Ages 8 12.