At 28,251 feet, K2 might be almost 800 feet shorter than Everest, but it’s a far harder climb. It will kill you on the way up and the way down.
Mick Conefrey guides us through the early story of the legendary mountain and the extraordinary attempts that led up to its first ascent in 1954 - these are tales of riveting drama and unimaginable tragedy.
Starting with the ill-fated attempts of the drug-addicted occultist Aleister Crowley and the wealthy Italian Duke of Abruzzi, the book then focusses on the three dramatic expeditions of 1939, 1953 and 1954.
The thread joining them together is the American Charlie Houston - a brilliant but tortured expedition leader who dreamed of being the first man to make it all the way to the top.
Based on exclusive interviews with surviving team members and their families and access to diaries and letters that have been archived around the world, this is a narrative that evokes the true atmosphere of the ‘Savage Mountain’ and explores the complicated legacy of the first ascent.
Wrought with tension and populated by tragic heroes and eccentric dreamers, Ghosts of K2 is a masterpiece of mountaineering literature.
©2015 Mick Conefrey (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
There were no reviews; Audible or Amazon, when I purchased this book and as of this writing it appears I am the first? Having only the description and the audio sample by which to make my determination left me a bit apprehensive, but I got the book because I enjoy history and world-renowned or history changing events. I really enjoy books that tell both the history of an event, but also provide some manner of mental or emotional connection with one or more of the persons discussed in the book. I just finished this today and I’m left with the feeling that my thirst for an engaging true story has not been assuaged. I wouldn’t say that this is a bad book, but I certainly cannot say it is a great book. I can only say it is an “okay” book.
This book thoroughly told the history of this event pretty much to a fault, but I couldn’t establish any connection with the people involved. It outlined a tremendous amount of history leading up to the first summit, but that story itself took up very little of the book. While there were some very engaging moments in this book, that is all there was. Some moments. The author tended to go too far into the weeds in some areas, such as providing an overly detailed history of what happened to the members of the first summit team after they returned home. Those points just left me saying; who cares?
I'm not so sure that at least some of the feelings I have toward this book aren't the result of the narration / narrator? The only other title that I've listened to with Barnaby Edwards narrating was Bomber Command by Max Hastings. I re-read that review just now and I realized I have almost exactly the same feelings with this book. A completely different subject and author, but my lukewarm feeling about the book is a mirror image to how I was left with that title. I feel like I just finished a history class textbook and I need to prep for the exam. The book evoked no emotions whatsoever. There was no point where - "I just couldn’t stop listening because I was riveted by the telling”. It was simply a very matter of fact and detailed account of the times, the places, the people, and the individual stories. I think, to be fair, I will need to listen to this book again. That said, I wonder if another narrator wouldn’t be better suited and help improve the book? Certainly a story like this is better with a British narrator, but Edwards is too monotonous and too matter of fact I think. Perhaps an abridged version with a different narrator would be better?
So, if you’re the type of person that enjoys historical non-fiction that reads like fiction this book is not that and you will likely come away feeling the same or worse. However, if you are in any way fascinated with K2, mountain climbing and/or learning about defining moments in history you will probably enjoy the book, but you will likely not love the book.
The book was good. It seems like the author did a lot of research on the many different first ascent attempts of K2. Although I don't know about some of the 'facts' he claims to have about the oxygen systems that were used, it's defiantly a well written account and does not really play any biased either way.
"The story behind the story - very good"
I read the previous book (Everest) first and so had high expectations.
The obvious research really shows that the author knows his stuff and weaves the information into an intriguing series of events. Not quite the exciting story as Everest as the climax was lacking, but that's not the point of the book, that's the set up for the story behind the story.
The end is great and truly compelling. It's fantastic to peel back the layers around the team that you come to know well through the initial adventure, only to see them in differing light- some from several view points.
"Not as hard going as the Abruzzi Ridge, but close"
This is a reasonably thorough account of the various abortive attempts to climb K2 before the eventual successful Italian climb in 1953. The author does a diligent but rather tedious job of detailing the personality clashes on the various expeditions, but really does not bring to life the sheer endeavour required on any big mountain, let alone "The Beast". The various dramas (and they are truly dramatic) are rather lifeless affairs.
The book has the summit attained about two thirds of the way through, so I was a bit puzzled about what remained. In fact, it was a very long description of the acrimonious debate about whether the two successful summiteers used oxygen all the way to the top or not; a debate that grumbled on for over 40 years. The later attempts in the 90s and beyond are truly dramatic but disposed of as an after-thought at the end of the book.
As a high altitude mountaineer myself (a while ago now and not in K2 territory) the sheer majesty of being high on such mountains, the awe-inspiring grandeur of Concordia and the Baltoro glacier are barely touched here.
All in all, easily the dullest mountaineering book I have read. Try Joe Simpson; Touching the Void and you will see what I mean.
"Solid historical account of K2 mountain"
I enjoyed the previous account of Everest by this author/ narrator combination. My criticism there was the lack of emotion as the chronological account, at times, became a list of names and missions. I'm happy to say this new book addresses this issue and I found it much more personal. There were lots of little details which helped to shape the characters attempting to conquer K2.
This book follows the chronology of missions from the late 1930s and therefore involves a good number of characters as teams change each year. At times I lost track of which period was being covered but overall I enjoyed the dramatic telling. It's also interesting to hear about the history and politics of the region in which these great mountains reside. Although the trials and efforts of the various climbing teams are interesting and harrowing at times, K2 just doesn't have the same magic as Everest.
I liked this a lot. Not quite as much as I enjoyed Conefrey's Everest book but very very good.
Conefrey concentrates a lot on the US expeditions and I think he does a better job of describing these than he does the successful Italian expedition - perhaps he had better sources.
"Too much analysis, not enough climbing."
Only really covers two expeditions, and then goes into excruciating and needless analysis of the aftermath.
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