At 28,251 feet, the world's second-tallest mountain, K2 thrusts skyward out of the Karakoram Range of northern Pakistan. Climbers regard it as the ultimate achievement in mountaineering, with good reason. Four times as deadly as Everest, K2 has claimed the lives of 77 climbers since 1954.
In August 2008, 11 climbers died in a single 36-hour period on K2 - the worst single-event tragedy in the mountain's history and the second-worst in the long chronicle of mountaineering in the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges. Yet summiting K2 remains a cherished goal for climbers from all over the globe.
Before he faced the challenge of K2 himself, Ed Viesturs, one of the world's premier high-altitude mountaineers, thought of it as "the holy grail of mountaineering". In K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain, Viesturs explores the remarkable history of the mountain and of those who have attempted to conquer it. At the same time he probes K2's most memorable sagas in an attempt to illustrate the lessons learned by confronting the fundamental questions raised by mountaineering - 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 were nearly killed in an avalanche that sent them sliding to almost certain death. Fortunately, 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 colle...
©2009 Ed Viesturs and David Roberts; (P)2009 Random House
Loved it!! I've read a lot of books on climbing, and thought I knew quite a lot about K2, but this told me so much I didn't know, plus a re-interpretation of previous climbs from Visteurs' personal experience. Fascinating and well written. Could hardly bear to put it down/switch it off. Will get his other book now in the hope its just as good.
A good book on K2 from the point of history and climber prospective. I would read it again.
The summary of the 2008 tragedy
The three words I would use to sum up K2 would be interesting, tragic and technical.
He has a nice voice for narrating books and was easy to listen to.
The book was interesting overall, but I felt that the book was more about the mistakes made rather than the drama of the events on K2. It wasn't quite the story I expected, but it was a good one, nonetheless. I suspect that if I knew more about climbing mountains, it would be more exciting.
I've listentened to K2 twice through, and my favorite sections, three and four times. I find the commitment of these Climbers, the early attempts, the isolation, in a word the HISTORY, exhilerarating.
Having heard of "the belay" (Pete Schoening), for years, I especially enjoyed the chonicling of the American Expedition of 1954. The trek, just to reach the foot of the mountain by the early expeditions (350 miles), the glacier and river travel, their 1st view of those giant mountains; just fascinating.
My favorite scene has to be the 1939 expedition when Fritz Wiessner turns back near the summit because his Companion is not wanting or able to proceed. Leadership.
Yes, I did have an extreme reaction to K2. I was inspired to sign up for my first climb, Spring 2013...Mt Whitney (no spring chicken here).
I've read and enjoyed three of Ed Viesturs' books, and await a tome.
I'm the first to admit that I enjoy a good tale about Man vs. Nature... there are some very interesting anecdotes in here, ranging from the awesomely heroic (and lucky) rescue called "The Belay" to goofy soap-opera politics after the mountain's first successful ascent. An interesting and entertaining read...
Bummer. There are so many outstanding K2 stories that EV does not have to retell so much of what he already said in Shortcuts. His saga pales in comparison to say Julie Tullis or Wanda among others. Bottom line, you won't hear anything new in this one.
"Captivating commentary by an elite mountaineer"
Not only is this a mountaineering book, it's also a book for anyone who's interested in the decisions people make under pressure when their lives are at stake.
Whether or not they are mountaineers themselves, listeners will appreciate Ed Viesturs' critiques of the risk management decisions on his own successful expedition in 1992, as well as his analyses of attempts by others to climb K2, including the 2008 expedition in which 11 climbers died.
You don't need technical mountaineering knowledge to enjoy this book, because the author's focus is on the teamwork, or lack of teamwork, among the climbers. Viesturs appraises the various K2 attempts not primarily on whether they succeeded in getting to the top, but on how well the climbers worked together during the expedition. The benefits of good teamwork are demonstrated by the 1938 American expedition. No one on that trip managed to reach the summit, and Art Gilkey died during the climb, but it seems likely that many more of the climbers would have died had they not worked together as well as they did.
Ironically, the first successful ascent in 1954 by an Italian team was marred not only by lack of bonhomie, but also by deliberate backstabbing and lies. If there are any "bad guys" on K2 for Ed Viesturs, they are Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lachedelli, the first two climbers to reach the summit.
It is inevitable that any book like this one risks becoming morbid -- so much of the history of K2 is the history of how people die trying to climb it. Although Viesturs points out what he believes are the mistakes responsible for killing people on the mountain, it strikes me that a climber on K2 can make no mistakes and still lose his life. Renato Casarotto's death in 1986 exemplifies this. Sorry, Ed Viesturs: wearing snowshoes might not have saved Casarotto.
The narration by Fred Sanders is very good.
"Hard to Follow"
The author talks about many different climbing expeditions during this book, but he goes back and forth so much that it is hard to keep track. There is also a lot of bragging about how he would have handled certain situations, although he repeatedly says he doesn't want to talk about his accomplishments or how disasters could have been avoided if he had been the one making the decisions. He second guesses the people who were actually on these expeditions, and it is annoying. Maybe some better editing would have helped. I struggled through it twice to try and put together the pieces of the book, but it really didn't help much. If you are interested in reading about mountain climbing, and not specifically about the K2 expedition, one of the finest books on this subject is Into Thin Air, which is not only very well written, but the narration by the author is great.
"Well written and researched"
I like mountain climbing books. My husband does not. His attitude is that if you have read one you have read them all. "We climbed a mountain and then it all went to hell." The more I thought about it, the more I agree with him but I don't care. I still like mountain climbing books and this was one of the better ones. Worth the credit.
"Great listen for climbers & non-climbers."
Everest gets all the hype but K2 has always been where climbers go to prove themself. Great narration of the history of triumphs and tradgedies on mountain climbings "holy grail".
"Worth the credit"
A good bood overall but Ed does tend to jump from story to story without good transitions. Despite this, the book still managed to keep my attention and his research was very good. The narrarator gets an A+.
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