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

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  2,287 ratings  ·  196 reviews
A thrilling chronicle of the tragedy-ridden history of climbing K2, the world's most difficult and unpredictable mountain, by the bestselling authors of No Shortcuts to the Top

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 re
...more
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Crown Archetype (first published 2009)
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Kilimanjaro and Beyond by Barry FinlayInto Thin Air by Jon KrakauerAnnapurna by Maurice HerzogNo Shortcuts to the Top by Ed ViestursK2 by Ed Viesturs
Climbing and Mountaineering
5th out of 104 books — 53 voters
Into Thin Air by Jon KrakauerThe Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienHades' Disciples by Michael  WestA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonKilimanjaro and Beyond by Barry Finlay
Worshipping Mountains
9th out of 72 books — 22 voters


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Community Reviews

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Mag
Ed Viesturs is one of the 18 people ever (and the only American) to have climbed all fourteen eight thousanders. It's a very rare feat- no woman has achieved it as yet. Yet, he is surprisingly level headed and devoid of ego. He ascribes his success to hard work, common sense and lack of bravura. He doesn't put it that way and it's not that blunt but this is what can be read between the lines. This cannot be said about all climbers though, and it's is especially visible when climbing the world's ...more
Heather
I loved the stories of the various climing attempts on K2 as well as some of the history of the mountain and climbing in general. It was really hard to get over the smugness of the author and his insistence (regarding every climbing mishap in history) that things like that would never happen to him because he is (apparently) the smartest, safest, strongest, and most educated climber in the universe. Got old fast.
Julie
This book works well for two reasons: Ed Viesturs’ authority as a top mountain climber and the comprehensive retellings of the most monumental K2 climbs. Viesturs reexamines pivotal events on K2 and considers lessons that can be learned from each tragedy. When I first started reading the book, I thought Viesturs was a bit pretentious, but when I did my own investigations into his accomplishments and the danger of K2, I was in awe of what he has achieved and I realized he has every right to offer ...more
Rob Maynard
My interest in high mountain climbing from an armchair perspective goes back in earnest to Jon Krakauer's controversial "Into Thin Air", chronicling the disastrous events of May 1996 when two guided expeditions to the summit of Everest came a cropper in a twilight blizzard as they were coming late off the summit. Eight climbers died that day, the controversy over guided high mountain expeditions spilled over into popular culture, and dozens of books were launched. I learned as I explored the lit ...more
Walter
Ed Viesturs is a climbing legend - for example, he's the only American to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter mountains without supplemental oxygen - and a good memoirist, but this book is mostly about others' experiences on the world's second highest peak. It chronicles seven famous expeditions, including the author's own ascent in 1992, most of which are tinged with tragedy in some meaningful way (which is a hallmark of even the most gifted climbers' experiences of the mountain generally c ...more
Andy
in the book K2 there really isn't one main character. It is kind like a biography of all the history of people climbing the mountain. The setting is on the mountain in the Korakoram Range in Pakistan and borders China. A major conflict about the book is it talks a lot about how many people have lost there lives on this mountain.
I chose to read this book because. I like being out doors and hiking. The book is just really cool too. Its more extreme hiking then just normal hiking. I also think it
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Ri
I could not finish this book and I always just try to plow through to the end. It's astounding to me how Viesturs can take such amazing stories about K2 and somehow make them boring. I found the writing lacking (what the heck was Roberts contributing?) and at times the book was all over the place, which left me confused and disconnected from any momentum. Viesturs also came across as kind of a know it all. He said several times that he didn't like people passing judgment on expeditions when they ...more
Erica
Overall an interesting overview of the history of K2 and the plethora of teams that have tried to summit. It would have made a bigger impression and seemed more groundbreaking if I hadn't read In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods right after.

My largest problem with the book was that Viesturs made a huge deal about how Western society ignores the role that the Sherpas play in mountain climbing (which is true and I admire him for making it an issue) and points out how they are never named in p
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Marsha Altman
Really great book about the history of K2, as well as a discussion of mountaineering in general and disasters on Everest. The author is little hard on people who are not overly cautious, but then again he has not died on a lot of mountains where other people have. A great read in the pantheon of "Everest"-type literature.
Nicole
No doubt Ed Viesturs is good at what he does. He thinks so too, but is relatively modest about saying so. Modestly immodest is how I came to think of it over the course of reading this book. The third person historical sections of this book are relatively straightforward and well-written, written as they are most likely by David Roberts. Then Ed chimes in with some commentary or analogy to his own experience: "I was very gratified, then, when Pemba Gyalje was hailed by National Geographic Advent ...more
Eddy Allen
cc:

A thrilling chronicle of the tragedy-ridden history of climbing K2, the world's most difficult and unpredictable mountain, by the bestselling authors of No Shortcuts to the Top

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 seventy-seven climbers since 1954. In August 2008 eleve
...more
Katherine Coble
For someone like me who doesn't understand the appeal of mountaineering, this is as good an introduction to the alpinists' mindset as any. Each chapter gives a solid accounting of an expedition up K2, the second highest, first deadliest mountain on Earth. The writing is accessible for folks like me who've never even climbed a rock wall at a sporting goods store; it was a good education that felt like the best of history, alive with passion and pathos.

I still don't understand why a man who has y
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Jennifer
Surprisingly Good

I wasn't sure if I'd like this book when I read the initial synopsis. I was looking more for information regarding one of the seasons on K2 rather than a history lesson. However...I was pleasantly surprised. The arrangement of chapters goes over several summit attempts, failures and successes. In each he feeds you the history of the mountain while you're drawn into the drama of each expedition. It was a great, easy read and I'm glad I read it.

My only small criticism of the book
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Liz Nutting
When temperatures in the desert reach sustained triple digits, there's nothing more refreshing than reading about climbers suffering frostbite or freezing to death on the summits of the world's highest mountains. And Ed Viesturs' K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain has enough harrowing tales of frozen mountaineers to keep me cool for days.

To my mind, there are few types of adventure literature as thrilling as the tales of triumph and survival on the peaks of the Andes, the
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Jean
Because I've read so many books on Mt. Everest and K2, this book wasn't exceptionally gripping but interesting all the same. If you haven't read much about climbing you would probably rate this a 5 star. As for hiking all great mountains- Reaching the summit is optional...getting down the mountain is mandatory. The true work begins on the way down the mountain.

Heres an interesting tidbit I learned though. K2 is a more difficult mountain to climb than Mount Everest. In 2008 alone 290 climbers re
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Marsha
I'm not sure what attracts a middle-aged, overweight woman to the aura surrounding high alpine climbing, but there it is. I have read a lot of mountaineering books and love them. This book by Ed Viesturs is a wonderful history of the attempts to conquer K2, the second highest mountain in the world. From his writing, it sounds like K2 is a harder technical climb than Everest.

Viesturs and his ghostwriter make the various attempts exciting with the right amount of reverence for both the art of cli
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Kelsey
My problem was this book was it didn't seem to know what type of book it was. It was a little bit Ed Viesturs memoir, a little bit the history of K2, a little bit the history of mountaineering 8,000 meter peaks.
When Viesturs concentrated on certain incidents, the writing was very good and the stories engaging. But the stories often seemed disjointed. One minute we were on K2, then we were on Everest. There also was at times, too much emphasis on other peopel's accounts, a bulk of the book was ci
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Philippa
Viesturs writes with the same kind of pragmatism with which he climbs. Recounting so many expeditions in one book leaves him with little time to wax lyrical about the beauty of K2 or the ethics of mountaineering; instead, this is an account which brings together several different ascents (and attempted ascents), and manages to vividly capture the personalities and details (and, frequently, the mistakes) behind each one.

I really appreciated the personal note to this book. Viesturs strikes a good
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Leslie
Like his first book, No Shortcuts to the Top, Viesturs' newest is a no-nonsense and thorough exploration of climbing the world's highest peaks - in this case, K2 of the Karkoram Range. Viesturs' philosophy that you haven't summited until you've arrived safely at Base Camp remains a constant, but this book is less about his climb of K2 with Scott Fischer and more about the history of climbing K2.

Viesturs thoroughly describes and explains the major summit bids, and his list of works cited is impr
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Ciara
my understanding is that this isn't necessarily a stand-out book as far as mountaineering chronicles go. a lot of the stories in the book have been thoroughly canvassed by a great many other books, sometimes first-hand. but i haven't read that many mountaineering books, so it held my attention. K2 is the world's second tallest mountain, but it seems to prevent a far more technically challenging climb than everest. not nearly as many climbers have attempted to summit K2 (in part because the range ...more
Caitlyn
Pretty good book. Some of it was very interesting but as someone else said his own commentary is ok but gets repeatative by the end. Early on I got the idea he's more conservative than most people, so he didn't have to keep drilling it in. I really enjoyed the beginning the best. How he talks a bit about how groups' mentality affects the expedition and can lead to death when people quit thinking for themselves. By the end I was tired of all his commentary though. I guess if I ever somehow find m ...more
Heidi
This was an exhilarating peek into a series of expeditions to climb K2, the mountain that has killed more climbers to date than any other mountain in the world. Ed Viesturs, an elite climber himself, makes the stories come alive with background knowledge and anecdotes. This is the kind of book that makes me wonder about some of the crazy things people do for fun, but I'm glad they do it because it makes for great storytelling.

The desire to be the first to do something adventurous has been a grea
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Mazola1
Ed Viesturs is one of the most accomplished high altitute mountaineers of all time and David Roberts is both an experienced climber and a noted author of climbing books. Together, they have written a history of K2, the "World's Most Dangerous Mountain." In it, they summarize many of the most noteworthy attempts to climb the mountain, both successful and unsuccessful, and chronicle the many deaths on the mountain.

Viesturs and Roberts say that "no mountain in the world has a more interesting hist
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Evan

Having read "Into Thin Air" by John Krakauer, Ed Viesturs seemed like on of the few people who acted correctly during the disaster that unfolded on Mount Everest in Spring 1996. I went into K2 expecting another close look at an event on a notorious mountain but instead found that the book delved into several of the events that have given the mountain its reputation.

However, and I would count this as my favourite thing about the book, Viesturs never allows himself to become romantic when speaking
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Alan
Ed Viesturs has put together an extremely intersting climbing history of K2 - the 2nd highest and most dangerous 8000+m mountain in the world. Viesturs knows what he is writing about...he has summited K2 as well as the rest of the 14 8000+m mountains in the world, and his climbing resume includes 7 times reaching the top of Mt. Everest.

I greatly enjoyed hearing about his personal experiences in conquering K2 and the narrative climbing history he has put together about this deadly mountain. He s
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Don
(FROM MY BLOG) Most of us admire those strong souls whose internal code demands a certain purity of conduct -- those who strive to satisfy their own ideals, not seek the world's admiration or hope somehow to sell their accomplishments. We admire, for example, the craftsman who makes violins the way he believes they should be made, even though he knows he could make far more money selling mediocre instruments to purchasers who wouldn't know or care about the difference.

Ed Viesturs, the first Amer
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josh
Another Viesturs mountaineering / history romp through the Karakorum. As the title indicates, this time we had a guided tour across Terra's 2nd highest peak - and one of the worst ratios of the 14 in terms of success:death.

As with all of his books, Viesturs tries to guide the reader through a laundry list of circumstances, conditions and variables associated with each of the expeditions he delves into. The imagery is fairly vivid and helps armchair mountaineers to feel some sort of association
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Sean
Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, has been scaled by 3142 people, of which 210 died on the mountain. K2, the second highest mountain, has been scaled by 284 people, of which 66 have died. While Everest captures much of the public attention, the tragedy-filled history of K2 is ultimately the more interesting. Ed Viesturs, an experienced mountaineer whose accomplishments include scaling all of the fourteen "eight thousander" (8000+ metres high) mountains on Earth, has written a his ...more
Linda C
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, so I picked this up at the library on a whim, seeing that it was located on the "Too Good to Miss" shelf, where the librarians put their favorities. And it was pretty good-- as some other reviewers have noted, if you read a lot of these books, the book might be redundant, since the expeditions discussed have numerous books of their own, written by actual participants.

However, since my entire mountain climbing book reading experience is limited to "Into Thin Air
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Andrea
K2, the world's second tallest mountain, is considered the toughest one to climb. One in four climbers who have tried, have died. Ed Viesturs, the first American to summit all fourteen 8,000 meter peaks, chronicles the history of the mountain from the mid-1800's to the tragedy of the 2008 season (eleven climbers died).

This is a highly enjoyable and fascinating read. I have zero desire to climb mountains, yet I am always drawn to stories of others who do. Viesturs write a mostly even-handed accou
...more
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Ed Viesturs is America's leading high altitude mountaineer, having climbed many of the world's most challenging summits, including ascending Mount Everest seven times. He recently completed a 16-year quest to climb all 14 of the world's highest mountains (above 8,000 meters) without the use of supplemental oxygen. In doing so, he became the first American and the 5th person in the world to accomp ...more
More about Ed Viesturs...
No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks The Will to Climb: Obsession and Commitment and the Quest to Climb Annapurna--the World's Deadliest Peak The Mountain: My Time on Everest Himalayan Quest: Ed Viesturs on the 8,000-Meter Giants No Boundaries: Spirit of Adventure

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“K2 is not some malevolent being, lurking there above the Baltoro, waiting to get us. It's just there. It's indifferent. It's an inanimate mountain made of rock, ice, and snow. The "savageness" is what we project onto it, as if we blame the peak for our own misadventures on it.” 3 likes
“There’s an old and honored tradition in exploration literature that you don’t air your dirty laundry in print. Whatever bickering, name-calling, grudge nursing, and dark funks really took place on the expedition, they’re nobody else’s business.” 0 likes
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