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Carey

seattle, WA, USA

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  • K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Ed Viesturs, David Roberts
    • Narrated By Fred Sanders
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (172)
    Performance
    (86)
    Story
    (86)

    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.

    Bradley says: "Good book"
    "Captivating commentary by an elite mountaineer"
    Overall

    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.

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