Harrowing adventure near the summit of the second-tallest mountain in the world.
Located on the border between China and Pakistan, K2 is notoriously difficult to climb in “ordinary” conditions, with its steep summit approaches, deep crevasses and unpredictably violent weather. But as teams from the Netherlands, Serbia, the United States and Korea, among others, as well as their Sherpa guides, contended with K2’s idiosyncrasies on the first weekend of August 2008, they were unaware until too late that a giant serac, or glacier, above one of the steepest approaches was dangerously unstable. With dozens descending the peak in early evening under darkening skies, the crumbling serac sliced the rope leading back to safety, taking one climber with it as his wife and a friend watched helplessly. New York Times reporter Bowley confesses that he is no mountaineer, and it took him a while to warm up to the story when he was assigned it by the Times’s foreign desk. It was only when he got to meet some of the survivors and learned the background stories of those who lost their lives that he became enthralled. He traveled Europe and South Asia, interviewing climbers who were on the mountain and family members of the mountain’s victims, trying to piece together the complicated sequence of events that resulted in 11 deaths and numerous lost extremities. A Norwegian climber who witnessed the first stirrings of the ice-fall that led to the weekend’s worse carnage told the author, “[w]e think you are the one to tell our story.” The author’s remove from the events may put off fans of John Krakauer’s highly personal Into Thin Air (1997), but Bowley is an intrepid journalist and gifted storyteller. In a brisk epilogue, he tells of his own adventures interviewing the remarkable men and women involved in the tragedy and finding heroism and triumph despite unbearable suffering.
Thrilling and wrenching.