A thrilling chronicle of the tragedy-ridden history of climbing the world's most difficult and unpredictable mountain, by the bestselling authors of The Mountain and No Shortcuts to the Top
“Gripping . . . reveals a good deal about the rarefied noble-gonzo world of high-altitude mountaineering.”—The New York Times
Ed Viesturs, one of the world's premier high-altitude mountaineers, explores the remarkable history of K2 and of those who have attempted to conquer it. At the same time, he probes the mountain's most memorable sagas in order to illustrate lessons about the fundamental questions mountaineering raises—questions of risk, ambition, loyalty to one's teammates, self-sacrifice, and the price of glory. Viesturs knows the mountain firsthand. He and renowned alpinist Scott Fischer climbed it in 1992 and got caught in an avalanche that sent them sliding to almost certain death before Ed managed to get into a self-arrest position with his ice ax and stop both his fall and Scott's.
Focusing on seven of the mountain's most dramatic campaigns, from his own troubled ascent to the 2008 tragedy, Viesturs crafts an edge-of-your-seat narrative that climbers and armchair travelers alike will find unforgettably compelling. With photographs from Viesturs's personal collection and from historical sources, this is the definitive account of the world's ultimate mountain, and of the lessons that can be gleaned from struggling toward its elusive summit.
Facing the world's second-highest peak, the Karakoram Range's K2 in Northern Pakistan, mountain climbers encounter incredible dangers, including a huge serac (an overhanging glacier), snow-obscured crevasses, whiteouts and avalanches that have killed even accomplished mountaineers. With clarity and compassion, renowned peak-scaler Viesturs recounts campaigns up K2's 28,000-plus feet from the late 1930s through the tragic 2008 season that saw 11 climbers die in the space of 36 hours. An American master of the climb, Viesturs shares secrets, inside jokes, history and lore such as the "psychological protection" afforded by clipping onto rope or handrails, the climbers' habit of "looking up to see if anything's coming your way," and the "miracle" of "one man with a single ax and a grip of steel stopping the otherwise fatal fall of six teammates and of himself." Admitting to "a disturbing fanaticism" that's driven himself and others to tackle the world's fourteen 8000-foot-plus peaks, Viesturs's you-are-there narration communicates effortlessly the enormous effort, and high adventure, of scaling K2.
I’ve grown to be fascinated reading and watching documentaries on mountain climbing and tragedies on K2, Everest, etc. I don’t know how anyone can give this book a bad review. It’s been one of my favorite so far. Ed is not cocky. He’s successful and knows the subject and it makes it interesting. Good stuff Ed!
Great read, couldn't put it down. My heart goes out to those that didn't make it, and to their families. I have respect for anyone that tries such things (climbing anything!), but those that make it, and especially those that save others have something beyond my inherent respect for all climbers. Great self arrest on K2 with Scott, Ed! That is truly the stuff of legend.
PS - at the age of 42, I still want Rainier and Denali. Alas, Denali is probably beyond my reach at this age.