In this riveting true story, journalist Graham Bowley recreates one of the most dramatic and harrowing tales of death and survival in mountaineering history, vividly taking readers through the tragic 2008 K2 ascent that claimed the lives of 11 climbers, severely injured two more, and made headlines around the world.
With its near-perfect pyramid shape, the 28,250-foot K2—the world’s second highest mountain, only 780 feet shorter than the legendary Everest 1,000 miles to the south—has lured serious climbers for decades. In 2008, near the end of a brief climbing season cut even shorter by bad weather, no fewer than 10 international teams—some experienced, others less prepared—crowded the mountain’s dangerous slopes with their sherpas and porters, waiting to ascend.
Finally, on August 1st, they were able to set off. But hindered by poor judgment, lack of equipment, and overcrowded conditions, the last did not summit until as late as 8 p.m., hours later than planned. Then disaster struck when a huge ice chunk from above the Bottleneck, a deadly 300-foot avalanche-prone gulley just below the summit, came loose and destroyed the fixed guide ropes. More than a dozen climbers and porters still above the Bottleneck—many without oxygen and some with no headlamps—faced the near impossibility of descending in the blackness with no guideline and no protection. Over the course of the chaotic night, some would miraculously make it back. Others would not.
Based on in-depth interviews with surviving climbers and many sherpas, porters, and family and friends of the deceased, the full depths of this drama is at last told.