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

K2 by Ed Viesturs
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Dec 12, 2010

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Read in December, 2010

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 it) but more about his moral superiority on the mountain. But after awhile you sort of feel like you get to know him and then you don't mind so much because it just becomes part of his personality you can accept like a friend's peccadilloes.

In the beginning I found the storytelling kind of lacking - huge lists of names of people making expeditions we barely get to know. But toward the end there are some real nail-biting moments on the mountain that certainly sucked me in. It's a little bit odd in that he's writing here primarily about expeditions he wasn't on that have been chronicled many times elsewhere, but I guess it is valuable to get his perspective.

There's also not a lot of reflection on what, exactly, makes this guy tick, what really motivates him, exactly to take the kinds of risks most of us could only begin to imagine. He really sees himself as a big time Safety First kind of guy...but while he points out lots of mistakes that led to various deaths on the mountains, he also allows that many of them are pure bad luck that no amount of precaution could prevent. This is what sets Krakauer apart from others who have written about mountains - not only is he a great storyteller, he is able to reflect in meaningful ways about why people do what they do - and not just the commercialization of places like Everest where fools pay for the privilege of having somebody else carry them up the mountain, but about how guys like this who are married with kids take an extreme unnecessary risk that results in So. Much. Death.

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