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

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  3,648 Ratings  ·  248 Reviews
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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Broadway Books (first published 2009)
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Rob Maynard
Jan 14, 2012 Rob Maynard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 20, 2009 Mag rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2010 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, vine, non-fiction
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
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.
Lukasz Pruski
Mar 10, 2017 Lukasz Pruski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"As they forged on down into the darkness, the two Austrians lost track of Mrufka. They assumed she was just behind them, but they would never see her again."

As a clumsy person afraid of heights the closest I have gotten to mountaineering was to conquer Orla Perć, a difficult tourist hike in Polish Tatra Mountains. Yet since childhood I have had a love for mountains and have always enjoyed reading climbing books. K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain (2009) by Ed Viesturs and
Feb 08, 2010 Walter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2009 Erica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: outdoors
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
Marsha Altman
Apr 22, 2014 Marsha Altman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Eddy Allen
Mar 29, 2014 Eddy Allen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Oct 23, 2013 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 07, 2014 Ri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2010 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed all of the mountaineer stories in this book and I read it while on a long backpacking trip which motivated me to want to keep moving. It did feel a bit disjointed and it was hard to keep the mountaineers straight since there were so many people and expeditions covered in one book. This book makes me want to get outside!
Moses Potter
Oct 16, 2016 Moses Potter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully written account of the history of climbing K2. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Nov 24, 2009 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(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
Feb 20, 2017 Sue rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Too much gossip -- too little adventure.
Oct 12, 2016 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written. Made both want to climb a giant mountain and never set foot on one. Lots of incredible stories - some inspiring, some baffling, some heart breaking.
Paul Colver
Mar 03, 2017 Paul Colver rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book starts slow. The writing could be better. But by the time I finished I have come to think of it as an excellent book.
His ego or opinions don't overshadow the story. and it is a gripping story of egos, human frailty and humans soaring at their best.
He takes a shot at the gleeful reception that the egomaniacs on Everest (see into thin air) got their comeuppance as despicable. the gleeful part I agree with him on but the way the disaster played out - ego, lack of teamwork, lack of compass
Mar 08, 2017 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Disjointed tales of K2. When the telling flows, it is very interesting. Then it stops and gets preachy. Viesturs is a pro climber, which is the positive and the negative. Positive because he can go into depth on what happened on the mountain. Negative because he then goes into depth on what should have happened on the mountain. As in, "I would never had..." or, "When I did I..." chastising those previous climbers. If he just stuck to the stories the book would have been much improved. I'd recomm ...more
Liz Nutting
Jun 22, 2010 Liz Nutting rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2011 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Jan 28, 2010 Ciara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
Dec 12, 2010 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this book up somewhat randomly when we were in Colorado and looking to support a small local bookstore, and for obvious reasons, feeling a little alpine.

All in all, this book grew on me as it went along. At first I found Ed a little self-aggrandizing in the disguised-as-humble way that makes it all the more annoying (and I should know, as I do this myself, not part of my charm). Not about his physical feats (which frankly he could brag openly about for all I care, I mean dude has earned i
Jan 10, 2016 Erika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book right after reading Mike Conefrey's history of K2 ascents. Both books covered the same attempts in the 1930s and 1950s, but they offered different details and perspectives. I think that Conefrey was more objective, but Viesturs, being an accomplished high-altitude climber, provided an expert's opinion.

After reading about the 1980s and 1990s climbs (and disasters) of Everest, I was struck by the difference between the pre- and post-1980s climbs. In the 30s and 50s, teams represe
Paul Pessolano
“K2 Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain” by Ed Viesturs with David Roberts, published by Broadway Books.

Category – Sports/Mountaineering Publication Date – August 03, 2010

Most of us think that Mount Everest is the most dangerous mountain. We come by this for 2 reasons, it is the highest mountain in the world and due to the popularity of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air”. However, if one looks at the statistics one would determine that K2, the second highest mountain is the mo
Jared A
Dec 27, 2016 Jared A rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the only mountaineering book I own. I have gone back a couple times to re-reference things for use as teaching aids and illustrations.
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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
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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.” 5 likes
“That’s leadership: lead by example, lead from the front, inspire people to follow your lead.” 1 likes
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