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No Way Down: Life and Death on K2

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  3,458 Ratings  ·  272 Reviews
In this riveting work of narrative nonfiction, journalist Graham Bowley re-creates one of the most dramatic tales of death and survival in mountaineering history, vividly taking readers through the tragic 2008 K2 ascent that claimed the lives of eleven climbers, severely injured two others, and made headlines around the world.

With its near-perfect pyramid shape, the 28,251
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 29th 2010 by Harper (first published 2010)
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Into Thin Air by Jon KrakauerThe Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonDark Summit by Nick HeilK2 by Ed Viesturs
Worshipping Mountains
10th out of 90 books — 41 voters
Into Thin Air by Jon KrakauerIsaac's Storm by Erik LarsonA Night to Remember by Walter LordIn the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel PhilbrickThe Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
Non-fiction Disaster Books
100th out of 117 books — 168 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 29, 2012 Suman added it
(EDIT: I have since read "One Mountain Thousand Summits", which I find to be a more detailed and accurate portrayal of the 2008 K2 disaster. If you have time to only read one book, read that one).

"No Way Down" is probably the single most detailed account of the 2008 K2 disaster in which 11 people died on the mountain. Graham Bowley, writer for the New York Times, does an admirable job collecting interviews from survivors and teammates and putting together an easily digestible and gripping narrat
Nov 18, 2010 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: mountain-woe
Yikes. This book is rather more gruesome than most of the mountain-woe books I've read. People just go sliding right off cliffs, someone finds another team member's eyeball in the snow after an avalanche and later on, that same person's penis is described as "frozen." Which makes sense in its bluntness & leads me down all sorts of unpleasant avenues regarding man bits and why no one has ever mentioned before what goes on down there at 28,000 feet. And what about the women? How exactly does o ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
The hour-by-hour story of the infamous K2 expedition in 2008 that claimed the lives of eleven climbers. The author interviewed many of the survivors and pieced together the most likely series of events from their accounts, although in spots his delving into minds of those who died, while probably as accurate as one could be, still remain speculative. Nevertheless, there are segments of nail-biting suspense

After having waited several months into the very short summer climbing season on K2, the se
Amar Pai
May 26, 2015 Amar Pai rated it really liked it
Good companion to Ed Viestur's K2 book. That one is more straight up reporting whereas this one recounts the 2008 disaster using a suspenseful narrative style. It reads like fiction, with lots of dialog, cliffhangers and foreshadowing.

Knowing what happened already, it was hard to read this book-- I had a pit in my stomach and dreaded what was to come. But that means it works as a suspense novel.

Remind me not to climb K2.
Jul 14, 2016 Cara rated it liked it
K2 has, statistically speaking, about a 20% chance of killing you if you attempt to climb it. And yet people with spouses and children and plenty of things to live for are willing to risk it, and then other people write books about them, and then I read those books because for some reason I am drawn to books about idiots. And this book definitely fits the bill, as it's chock full of idiots who'd rather climb a mountain than, you know, live. Maybe you can tell I don't have a lot of sympathy for p ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
It is hard not to compare this book to Into Thin Air by Jon Krakuaer. However, there are some noticeable differences which I believe make this book a more pleasurable read. The latter spent a far greater number of pages detailing the rich cultural history of Everest and the individuals who climbed it. This book propels the reader more or less straight into the action and, although there are segments which are dedicated to the history of K2, this in itself often provides the same enthralling read ...more
Jun 27, 2016 Vanessa rated it liked it
Like everyone else who read Krakauer's Into Thin Air, I've been obsessed ever since with tales of high-altitude climbing, particularly when that climbing goes wrong. This book is about the 2008 disaster on K2, which left 11 climbers dead. One climber saw her husband die in an avalanche that barely missed her and another climber; another one saved a fellow Sherpa who has lost his ice axe, only to lose his cousin the following day during a separate rescue mission. This story shares some similarity ...more
Nov 08, 2015 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story itself was good, but there were some issues with how the book was laid out that I did not like.

For instance, the narrative often jumped time without much warning (flashbacks, and within the timeline of the events transpiring on K2). Sometimes it was difficult to keep track of who was doing exactly what where, and while I totally understand the equivalent of the 'fog of war' on the mountain, the book was written with the help of hindsight, so I think the overall narrative structure cou
Sep 09, 2010 Greg rated it it was ok
The jacket blurb calls this a "riveting work of narrative non-fiction." Hardly. It reads like a long newspaper article.
Sep 04, 2014 Marianne rated it liked it
Why do people do this?? Why do they walk underneath killer, overhanging glaciers, creep along impossibly steep ice walls, relinquish fingers and toes to frostbite, watch friends plummet thousands of feet to their deaths? This is the absolute definition of horror to me; Freddy Krueger and Hannibal Lectre have nothing on K2. Scratching my head in great flummoxment, I decided to read some blogs and articles online written by true blue climbers. They regularly used words like beauty, grace, joy and ...more
Steve Fisher
Nov 25, 2012 Steve Fisher rated it really liked it
I think I've read at least a dozen books about Mt. Everest. That said, I knew that the time would come when I would start reading books about the more difficult climb: K2. While it's clear that this book is written by a skilled writer, he is, nonetheless a writer who is new to mountaineering. He is no Krakauer or Viesturs--climbers who happen to be good writers. Bowley admits his lack of climbing experience immediately, which in some ways makes it evident that this book is the result of long hou ...more
Sep 11, 2011 Erin rated it liked it
I kinda feel sorry for all mountain disaster books that follow Into Thin Air, for they will always be compared to Krakauer's masterpiece. On the other hand, they do benefit from the resulting popularity of the genre and probably earn a lot more money thanks to Krakauer.

No Way Down is a decent book-- not great, but decent. I like the way Bowley tells the story through his different characters, tracing each part of the story from the perspective of those involved at that stage of the disaster. Fir
Sonia Almeida Dias
This was a very good book. And it was about K2, and not the Everest, which is refreshing. I knew next to nothing about this mountain, and if you read any of my previous reviews you should know that I love to learn from the books I read. I've learnt a lot.
About the mountain, but especially about myself. I believe I am a very lucky person, because I feel happy with simple things. I do not need to climb a mountain and feel close to death, to get this feeling of being alive. I get immense pleasure
Rebecca Huston
There is something about climbing mountains that I am fascinated by. I can't really describe it, but despite my current condition, I still find myself enthralled by it. No Way Down describes a day on K2, the second-highest peak in the world, when eleven hikers were killed when a glacier gave way. K2 is considered to be one of the most dangerous mountains to climb, and has a record of one in four climbers not making it back down again. That's a frightening statistic when you think of it. Bowley g ...more
Susan Liston
Jul 12, 2016 Susan Liston rated it really liked it
Considering that the author is not a climber and was not present for any of these events he does a pretty good job of placing the reader there, not that I would ever, ever be there or anywhere close to there. I don't know why I've developed this strange obsession with crazed mountain climbers. Maybe there is something oddly reassuring about reading of terrible things that will NEVER HAPPEN TO YOU IN A MILLION BILLION YEARS because you aren't THAT crazy.

(There is a good documentary about this...
Oct 27, 2014 Meredith rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
Not the most uplifting of books but a good, easy read about the K2 disaster several years back.
Sep 20, 2010 Lacey rated it liked it
The K2 expedition in August 2008 is an amazing story to be told. Unfortunately, I don't feel like this book aptly told it. The text jumps around and I struggled to follow who was doing what and when they were doing it. I do, however, have to give credit to the author for trying to portray what really happened for these three days on K2 by piecing together information from multiple (and sometimes conflicting) sources. Tragic story, I can't comprehend what these climbers truly faced as one thing a ...more
Jun 19, 2016 Lin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have read several books concerning the 1-2 August 2008 tragedy on K2, and I would not recommend this one to anybody. While the author may be a NYTimes journalist, he is clearly not used to writing a full book, as evidenced by the shoddy writing style that is frequently reminiscent of a poorly constructed middle-grade novel. I can only imagine that editing was given a pass in order to get this book out as fast as possible, in front of other books covering the tragedy. In addition to poor style, ...more
Chloe Natasha
Jun 07, 2016 Chloe Natasha rated it it was ok
It took me way too long to get into this book, and I did enjoy it in some ways. It provides factual, insightful knowledge into the experiences that these people had atop K2 and does not hold back in describing the horrors and gore of the many problems they encountered.

Yet, I still couldn't get into it. I literally forced myself to read it -- 1. Because I had already bought the book and was adamant it would improve at some point. 2. Because I have a deep fascination and admiration of K2 and almo
Matthew Ciarvella
Jun 28, 2015 Matthew Ciarvella rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
The natural impulse is to compare this book to Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air," which isn't a bad situation for Graham Bowley's work since "No Way Down" comes out looking pretty well. In particular, the focus is on the action and the drama of the survival situation that the climbers find themselves in. Three people are dead before page 90 and the page doesn't relent after that. There's also a more gritty approach to the physical brutality facing the climbers. I finished the book in a single sitti ...more
Reading Into Thin Air just a couple of days ago triggered in me again my age-long, profound passion and madness for mountains and climbing, always so deeply rooted in me, only this time fully asleep because of the inescapable duties that bound me to my studies and my activities of the artistic sort. Now I see I have just awoken the sleeping Kraken, because after reading these two books I feel like jumping out of the window and running the closest way to any mountains around me.

An idiotic decisio
Ell Eastwood
May 03, 2016 Ell Eastwood rated it liked it
Idk, this book did not grip me the way I thought it would. Maybe it was the way it was written? But then again, I've been gripped by Wikipedia pages about mountaineering accidents, so that's probably not it.

I guess it's the fact that the author wasn't there. The best chapter is the last one, where HE goes to meet all the people involved and talks about his experiences doing so, that's when, idk, they come alive? We get some perspective, some feeling for them? I'm not saying you can't write a goo
Feb 16, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing
Fascinating recounting of the 2008 mountaineering tragedy on K2 in which 11 people died. Personal accounts are included, as well as some speculation as to why the events are not clear - the result of several of the people caught on the mountain being without oxygen or protection as they bivouaced over night. Who did what? Did McConnell stop to help the Korean climbers trapped in the rope? Did the Italian? Who is responsible when so many people are trying to get up the mountain at the same time? ...more
Jane C.
Aug 11, 2010 Jane C. rated it it was ok
The author was meticulous in his research into the events of August 2008. I rushed to get through the book, impatient to find that survivors had made it to safety. It was my own fault then that I couldn't keep track of the large number of characters and their exact locations on the mountain. The questions that remained at the end of the book were disturbing, and I sensed so much emptiness in the attitude of the survivors.

Paul Pessolano
Jun 01, 2015 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it
“No Way Down, Life and Death on K2” by Graham Bowley, published
by Harper.

Category – Sports/Mountain Climbing Publication Date – May 24, 2011.

K2 is the second highest mountain in the world only 780 feet shorter than Mount Everest. The difference in the mountains though, according to those who climbed both, is that K2 is the more difficult mountain to climb. This account of the tragedy of August, 2008 rivals the book, “Into Thin Air” by John Krakauer.

This is another story of people trying to clim
May 23, 2015 Gerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roughin-it
"No Way Down..." is another example of why I love to read! Through the words on the pages of the book I was able to experience K2, the awe inspiring grandeur of the second highest peak on earth, with its sudden storms, swirling snow and bone numbing cold temperatures. I was frustrated with the lack of progress and even fatal delays at the Bottleneck only to push on towards the summit despite the lateness of the hour and resultant descent in the dark. I witnessed the heroics of Big Pasang, only t ...more
Rachel Atwood
This is the tragic story of the group of people that climbed K2 in 2008. K2 is the second highest peak in the world but the most dangerous mountain to summit. When bad weather hits the groups climbing the mountain they do bot realize the trouble they are about to encounter. Unable to descend the mountain until 8pm, hours later then they planned, a 300-foot avalanche hit and destroyed all the guide ropes. This story retells the terrible account of this day and the deaths of 11 people up on the mo ...more
Apr 09, 2015 Prashant rated it really liked it
Shelves: inspirational
This is a book about what happened on the K2 mountain during the 2008 expedition which was one of the biggest expedition till date.

While the Mt. Everest is the highest in height however when it came to difficulty then K2 is the most difficult and in 2008 lot of people just for the fame and glory and with the money in their pocket thought to reach the peak of K2 ,however the K2 had some other plans for them .

This is a great story if you want to know about the determination, leadership , Uncertai
Sep 25, 2014 chloe rated it it was ok
It took me way too long to get into this book, and I did enjoy it in some ways. It provides factual, insightful knowledge into the experiences that these people had atop K2 and does not hold back in describing the horrors and gore of the many problems they encountered.

Yet, I still couldn't get into it. I literally forced myself to read it -- 1. Because I had already bought the book and was adamant it would improve at some point. 2. Because I have a deep fascination and admiration of K2 and almo
Pablo Lobo
Mar 17, 2016 Pablo Lobo rated it liked it
I read this book shortly after finishing "Into Thin Air" (Jon Krakauer's account of what happened in Everest in 1996). I must say, that, although I liked this book, I found it to be quite harder to read and even a bit tiring at points.
Ever since I started reading and finding myself interested in mountaineering and Himalayas in particular, K2 seems to have been my "favourite" 8000+ peak, finding it amusing and beautiful all at once. Considering this, I was 100% ready to love this book as soon as
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r/books: A note about travel books 1 19 May 11, 2015 06:44PM  
  • One Mountain Thousand Summits: The Untold Story Tragedy and True Heroism on K2
  • K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain
  • Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season
  • Savage Summit: The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2, the World's Most Feared Mountain
  • K2, The Savage Mountain: The Classic True Story of Disaster and Survival on the World's Second Highest Mountain
  • Forever on the Mountain: The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering's Most Controversial and Mysterious Disasters
  • On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined
  • K2: Triumph and Tragedy
  • High Crimes: the Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed
  • Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mount Everest
  • The Mountains of My Life (Modern Library Exploration)
  • Epic: Stories of Survival from the World's Highest Peaks
  • High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places
  • Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day
  • The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mt. Everest
  • Annapurna
  • Annapurna: A Woman's Place
  • Above the Clouds: The Diaries of a High-Altitude Mountaineer

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