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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  5,074 ratings  ·  319 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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 ·  5,074 ratings  ·  319 reviews


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Joy D
Ed Viesturs is an accomplished high-altitude mountaineer who has summited all fourteen of the world’s peaks over 8000 meters. K2, the world’s second highest peak at 8,611 meters (28,251 feet), is located in the Korakoram Range of northern Pakistan. It is considered one of the most difficult and dangerous peaks to climb. This book not only tells of Viesturs’ ascent of K2 in 1992, but also recounts the history of six other K2 expeditions up to 2009, including an assessment of successes, catastroph ...more
Heather
Jan 07, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Rob Maynard
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mag
Dec 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Ri
May 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Julie
May 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, non-fiction, vine
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
Erica
Oct 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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Lukasz Pruski
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
"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
...more
Ben
Nov 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, nature, memoir
Yes, Viesturs is completely full of himself. He can't even praise his children's skiing skills without interjecting "I'm a pretty good skier myself." But, I suppose, at least the book comes across as authentic to that aspect of his personality. Overall, I thought this was a great history of K2 climbs, especially of the 2008 disaster. It is highly opinionated, with Viesturs trying to draw lessons and willing to place blame for mistakes. (Mistakes that he would never have made himself, of course.) ...more
David Edall
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-all
I think what is most captivating about this book is just how rational and fair Viesturs is with his narrative. It did not take long for me to develop a great respect for him as he chronicled the bloody history of K2. To quote Viesturs himself "no mountain in the world has a more interesting history." I couldn't agree more.
Eddy Allen
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Walter
Feb 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Caitlyn
Feb 01, 2011 rated it liked 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
Marsha Altman
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kelly
Nov 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
Disclaimer, I didn't finish it. I found the author to be quite smug, which I could have possibly handled if the storytelling had been not so lackluster and he didn't jump around so much. I'll go read my well-worn copy of Into Thin Air again to get a bit of a mountaineering fix.
Lindsay Anne
Mar 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
Complete arrogance. Forgetting the shocking omissions he makes vis-a-vis the 1996 Everest disaster (I'm not even going there), I have never seen such an unjustified sense of grandeur in a mountaineer. If you want the real story on the 1996 disaster, read Graham Ratcliffe's book.
Nv
Dec 06, 2019 rated it liked it
All mountain climbers are liars, says Ed Viesturs, mountain climber. The sanctimony is strong in this one. Unlike, unfortunately, the quality of prose. At least now I have an answer to that eternal question, what would Shakespeare look like when paraphrased for a CNN newcaster. Lyrical descriptions bordering on the mystic qualities of light, snow, rock, and air belong in the realm of Robert Macfarlane, Ed Viesturs is here to impart some knowledge for your ignorant sea-level ass, and he does it w ...more
Misti
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. It’s about Ed Viesturs’ climb of K2, plus a look back at other expeditions that tackled the 2nd highest mountain in the world. I realize that I don’t get to have an opinion, since I am reading these books from the comfort of my home and have hiked exactly 0 8000m peaks, but I liked reading about his opinions and experiences. Some of the sentence structures in the book are really weird which kind of interrupted the flow, but other than that it was a quick and interesting read ...more
John
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book by Ed Viesturs I have read and I was not disappointed. The stories he relates are every bit as exciting as a thriller and told with an unbiased narrative which tries to see the situation from all sides. As a climber with experience on K2 his opinions are given from experience and insight. And given the tales he tells about some of the more famous attempts to summit K2, his own personal triumph is that much more impressive.
Kristina Lynn
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really interesting and captivating recount of lessons learned and history of K2 ascents. It’s a good read if you’re looking for some suspense and crazy survival stories. I only take off a star because it can be hard to follow at times with so many names and switching around to different expeditions it can get confusing.
Laura
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The low rating is due to my impatience with the author's personal attitude. The book can't decide if it's a discussion on past expeditions or a constant critique by the author. The fact that the author continues to not have a single description of a female climber without ascribing at least one character flaw or his outdated use of colonizing language remains tedious. Best parts of the book are when the author removes his own opinion and tells the story.
John
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Story - 4.3
Narration - 4.5

Very good! Covers the stories of the many K2 expeditions up to 2008.

Krakauer's book was better because it's focused on one climb, but this one is good!
Amanda Hunsberger
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love mountaineering memoirs. The problem with Viesturs examining other K2 expeditions is that he comes off as a bit self-satisfied, when evaluating others' climbing decisions.
Scott Johnson
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This was all over the place.....

The organization, for most of the book, was very illogical. We start with a play-by-play of the 2008 disaster. I was expecting a segue into, "Well how did it come to this? Here's how it all started a hundred years ago," and then we dive into the history of the mountain. Similar approaches have been taken in Everest books, detailing the current state of hyper-tourism and traffic jams causing death, then let's go back and see how we got from the first climb by Hilla
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Andy
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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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Jason Morrison
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Having read "Left For Dead: My Journey Home from Everest" by Beck Weathers and "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer already, I stumbled across this to continue my fascination with high altitude climbing and all of the tragedies that have occurred during summit attempts.

If you are looking for a great account into all of the major attempts on K2, this is an excellent book. It is well researched and I found the author to be very knowledgeable (and highly opinionated) about all of the expeditions he cove
...more
Katherine Coble
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-checkout
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
...more
LibraryCin
Mountaineer Ed Viesturs takes a look a the history of K2, the second highest mountain in the world, but the most deadly for climbers.

It was interesting to hear about the various excursions and adventures on the mountain, from the 1930s to 2008. I was listening to the audio, so my mind did wander occasionally, and for some reason, a little more in the second half, but overall, I quite enjoyed it. Because it was the audio, though, it was tricky sometimes to figure out which year's excursion I was
...more
Tracy
Dec 28, 2010 rated it liked it
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!
AJ
Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
3.5 stars
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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.” 4 likes
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