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K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain [Paperback]

Ed Viesturs , David Roberts
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 3 2010
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

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 raisesquestions 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.

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K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain + Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
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Product Description


“Gripping...reveals a good deal about the rarefied noble-gonzo world of high-altitude mountaineering.”
—New York Times

“Viesturs illuminates K2's challanges, triumphs, tragedies, and follies...Riveting.”
—The Daily Beast

“Viesturs's you-are-there narration communicates effortlessly the enormous effort, and high adventure, of scaling K2.”
—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

ED VIESTURS is the first and only American to ascend all fourteen of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen and the author of The Mountain, No Shortcuts to the Top, and The Will to Climb.

In addition to his collaborations with Ed Viesturs, DAVID ROBERTS is the author of more than twenty books, including Finding Everett Ruess.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
America's first mountaineer to climb the 14 8000m peaks, Viesturs describes the major events on K2 along with his personal views. Ed examines "the questions of risk, ambition, loyalty to one's teammates, self-sacrifice, and the price of glory", sharing his direct honest opinions, like: "jerk", "I just don't buy it", "why didn't he get out and do something", and "that directive strikes me as questionable at best". I myself firmly believe in Ed's approach - getting into great physical shape with a thoroughness and intensity of preparation and planning, being a clock watcher and on time, non confrontational, carrying your own weight, and being patient.

You should buy this book first and foremost for Viesturs account of his own summit of K2 in 1992, second for his opinions of the controversial 1939 U.S. expedition led by Fritz Weissner, third for his critique of the August 2008 season where 11 climbers died in a 36-hour period, and finally as a history of the main events in K2's history, including 1938 U.S. reconnaissance expedition, the 1953 U.S. expedition, the controversial first ascent by the Italians in 1954, and the terrifying 1986 season that left 12 dead. There are 8 pages of colour photos (4 from Viesturs K2 ascent in 1992), 8 pages of b/w photos, a 2-page map, and one b/w sketch..

The book starts with Ed critiquing the 2008 tragedy where 11 climbers died in a 36-hour period. He clarifies the misconception that they were all killed when pieces of the frightening large ice serac above the bottleneck fell off. He also states that the real heroes were the Sherpas, unselfishly going back up the mountain to rescue climbers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A take-no prisoners, White-knuckled , whiteout!!! March 25 2010
Five Stars!!!

Ed Viesturs is one of the few climbers to have achieved that glorious distinction of having sucesfully summitted the worlds highest 14 peaks (above 8000 metres or 8000'ers as they are referred to).
The second highest mountain, K2, is the focus of this book, co written by mountaineering author David Roberts. Viesturs is intimate with K2, and has had his share of challenges during his own ascent of this difficult and dangerous 28,241 ft peak, which provide for some wonderful edge of the seat moments during the telling! The book is a deliciously detailed commentary on some of the most difficult (sometimes fatal) attempts at summiting K2,a mountain with the dubious distinction of having the highest fatality rate among all the 14 8000ers (There is a statistic provided in the book that suggests 1 in every 4 climbers have succumbed to K2 since the time summit attempts have been recorded, for this mountain).
Another stand-out insight into the difference between the world's highest (and perhaps most recognizable peak by name) Everest and K2, is the fact that Everest hosts several ascents by teams each year during the peak season, whereas K2 continues to be the path least trodden by experts and novices alike (Everest has had some interesting and successful summiteers in recent times, including a double amputee, a 70 year old, etc - this has not (yet) occurred on K2 to date) perhaps a stark testament to the vastly complex and difficult set of challenges, variables (weather)and sheer unpredictabbility that K2 poses for any 'wannabe' summiteer!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By RSProds
Four and a Half AIRY Stars!! Author & mountaineer Ed Viesturs is one of the world's great climbers who has pulled off the rare feat of reaching the summit of all 14 "8000 meters and higher" peaks, topped off by Everest. This up-to-date book on the second highest mountain, K2, written along with mountaineering author David Roberts, follows Viesturs' famous book No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks. Mr. Viesturs knows K2 very well since he made a troubled ascent of this 28,241 ft monster which he barely survived. He also gives a historical view of the most important attempts at climbing this mountain with the highest fatality rates among 8000 meter peaks. Compared to Everest, which the author says has many ascents each climbing season, K2 is a unique experience with comparatively fewer ascents. Difficult to get to in the Karakoram range, avalanche-prone, plagued by bad weather, with bivouacs inadvisable, and with no winter ascents, K2 is a daunting proposition for the most experienced climbers in the best of circumstances.

Beginning with the events of August 1 & 2, 2008 which became the worst climbing disaster in the history of K2 (an accumulation of events), Mr Viesturs gives both a very frank and personal viewpoint of his own climb and experiences, juxtaposed with other major campaigns and historical events over the years. Despite many 'topical switchbacks' between different climbs which can be mildly difficult to follow, this is an engrossing and sometimes touching read that covers teams, climbing techniques, tactics, heroics and failures, lives and deaths.
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