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Thieves, Liars and Mountaineers: On the 8,000m peak circus in Pakistan

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This is the tale of Mark Horrell’s not-so-nearly ascent of Gasherbrum in Pakistan, of how one man’s boredom and frustration was conquered by a gutsy combination of exhaustion, cowardice, and sheer mountaineering incompetence.

He made not one, not two, but three intrepid assaults, some of which got quite a distance beyond Base Camp, and overcame many perilous circumstances along the way. The mountaineer Joe Simpson famously crawled for three days with a broken leg, but did he ever have to read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown while waiting for a weather window?

But that’s enough about Mark’s attempt; there were some talented climbers on the mountain as well, and this story is also about them. How did they get on? Heroes, villains, oddballs and madmen – 8,000m peaks attract them all, and drama, intrigue and cock-ups aplenty were inevitable.

208 pages, ebook

First published November 26, 2011

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About the author

Mark Horrell

25 books34 followers
For many years Mark Horrell has been writing what has been described as one of the most credible Everest opinion blogs out there. He writes about trekking and mountaineering from the often silent perspective of the commercial client.

For nearly 20 years he has been exploring the world’s greater mountain ranges and keeping a diary of his travels. As a writer he strives to do for mountain history what Bill Bryson did for long-distance hiking.

Several of his expedition diaries are available from the major online bookstores. He has published two full-length books: Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest (2015), about his ten-year journey from hill walker to Everest climber, and Feet and Wheels to Chimborazo (2019), about an expedition to cycle and climb from sea level to the furthest point from the centre of the earth.

His favourite mountaineering book is The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W.E. Bowman.

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5 stars
52 (25%)
4 stars
73 (35%)
3 stars
57 (27%)
2 stars
19 (9%)
1 star
3 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Ines.
317 reviews185 followers
February 4, 2019
Storia che mi ha tenuta incollata per due giorni sino a che non ho finito il libro, rimango sempre sconvolta quando mi fisso e leggo i libri sull'alpinismo, e confesso che non riesco proprio a capire minimamente come si possano passare due mesi di fila in un campo base a -15 gradi fissi e tentare piu' volte avanti e indietro la scalata nell'ordine di far abituare il corpo all'altitudine pazzesca di 5000 metri e poi sempre piu'.
La storia e' ricca di descrizioni e avvenimenti ma povera purtroppo di una ben che minimo approfondimento di pensiero o condivisione sul cosa ci stia dietro ad una decisione cosi' estrema nello scalare gli 8000.
Profile Image for chucklesthescot.
2,905 reviews119 followers
July 10, 2015
Mark has plenty to get annoyed about on this long and frustrating trek and climb in Pakistan. First he is annoyed at the behaviour of the porters, refusing to walk in a little bit of snowfall and forcing him off the trail every time they want to pass instead of just overtaking. Then there are a series of thefts from the high camps, liars claiming to have made the summit when everyone knows they didn't and a lot of climbers littering through sheer lazyness.

There is an interesting debate over who is to blame for the death of a female Korean climber on Nanga Parbat. A Korean team who refused to contribute to the rope fixing of the Austrian team were warned by the Austrians that if they did not pay as you are expected to do, they would take the ropes away on their way down and let the Koreans fend for themselves. With the ropes gone the Korean had to climb down under her own skills and fell to her death. I agree with Mark's expedition leader Phil that the Austrians should not be blamed. A lot of teams spend plenty money to get excellent Sherpa guides and the best equipment and outside help, then these small teams who are doing it on the cheap come along and expect to just use your ropes etc without cost to themselves. It is selfish and lazy.

A similar incident begins to unfold on Mark's expedition. A Spaniard tags along with an Irianian team but with bad weather coming, The Iranians admit defeat on the way to the summit and try to convince the Spaniard not to go on. He ignores them and is trapped near the summit in terrible weather, and Phil is asked by the man's friends to help. His friends blame the Iranians for not stopping the man which is totally unfair in my book-you can't reason with a man hell bent on reaching the summit at any cost. Then the couple get angry because Phil won't risk his Sherpas on a suicide rescue mission. Some of these idiots should never be let loose on a mountain. And the man's own team seemed to care little about mounting a rescue of any kind, wanting Phil to do it all. It's another example of a cheap team expecting others to get them out of trouble due to their own bad management and preparation.

This was a really good trek diary, seeing the unfolding disasters as they happened. It also shows how frustrating it can be to wait for that weather window that never comes, and what you do to pass the time at base camp.
Profile Image for Vicky Coughlan.
581 reviews2 followers
February 19, 2019
Humorous and poignant at times descriptions of the daily life of a climber while waiting for the weather to be just right for the climb. A refreshingly view on mountain climbing warts and all. Really liked this book.
Profile Image for Nigel Pinkus.
294 reviews3 followers
August 15, 2021
Whilst the story didn’t reach any great heights (no pun indended), it was still an enjoyable, entertaining read. Actually, it was read in one sitting from beginning to end when this person was simply flicking thru’ his Kindle looking for something to read!

It was a story about trying to climb Gasherbrum, an 8000m mountain in Pakistan, with ill-fitting boots, grumpy climbers and even some offensive behavior and language by some groups. It was high mountain ascending with all the terrible weather conditions that could occur at that time. There was heavy snow: where 'football sized chunks of snow built-up under the crampons ever few steps', gale force winds, white out freezing conditions, avalanches and to make things worse there was unwanted extremely cold jet streams of weather that blew over the mountain.

It was also a story about ‘summit confusion’ where people, due to the high mountain inclement white out conditions, were able to claim that they summited the mountain when they probably didn’t. But, there were probably people that did summit the mountain when they say they did. How could you tell the difference between the two claims? When there was gale force winds, white out freezing conditions and in -40c conditions who indeed could tell who had summited the mountain and who didn’t. Yes, there were some lies told, but there was some evidence that there was some (but not much) high mountain theft as well. Enough, it seemed to warrant, Horrell to title his story
the way he did.
Even so, this story got a solid, but unremarkable 3 stars from me.
Profile Image for Rae.
105 reviews5 followers
January 29, 2016
Much like Mark's trip, this journal starts well and then slows somewhat, as the team is trapped in Base Camp awaiting a weather window to attempt a summit of Gasherbrum I or II -- a window that looks less likely to arrive with every day. As time passes and the collection of odd characters at Base Camp gets more restless, however, strange things start to happen and the pace picks up. Mark's prose captures the events and people on the moutains very economically, and the diary format gives it an enjoyable immediacy.
1 review
May 27, 2016
Funny and insightful.

I used to walk up hills when I was younger. Less often now. Yet I still love to watch movies or read stories of those who do those things I will never be able to do. This book really brings a human perspective to the realities of climbing with good doses of humor mixed in. It was enjoyable from cover to cover and it makes me want to watch the Everest movie again. : )
Profile Image for Meiska.
35 reviews
March 23, 2013
The book is written diary style, but I like it that way. A great insight on day to day life while attempting 8000 meter peaks. Comical, Somber, and interesting in my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Jane Lack.
50 reviews2 followers
April 15, 2017
Glad to have met this guy.....love his realistic descriptions and approach to climbing the big peaks and looking forward to reading more of his books.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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