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
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.
Great time of year to bundle up in bed with a good audio book- the spookier the better-
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.
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".
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.
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+.
Viesters writing voice is down to earth, informative and human. He does an excellent job mixing the climbing history of K-2 with his adventures on and off that particular mountain. When relating to the people and lives described in the book e strikes a good balance between "tell all" and "face saving", giving a realistic portrayal of the human drama and characters of K-2.
The audio book was easy to listen to, as Fred Sanders does a great job making the narrative come alive.
In the end, the star of the show is the mountain, and I left listening to this book wishing Viesturs and Roberts had actually written a longer version which included more of the fascinating stories of attempts to climb this "savage mountain".
For any and all climbers and outdoors adventurers, this is a must read.
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