PASSION, TRAGEDY, AND PERSONAL GLORY.
THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAIN IS ALSO
LIFE AND DEATH ON THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS MOUNTAIN
BY ED VIESTURS
WITH DAVID ROBERTS
“(K2 is) all rock and ice and storm and abyss . . . . It is atoms and stars.” – late explorer and writer Fosco Maraini
In the Karakoram Range of northern Pakistan stands the world’s second-tallest mountain at 28,251 feet. K2 towers above the world, overwhelming visitors with its wind-swept majesty and deadly reputation. Alpinists call it the most beautiful mountain in the world, but it also poses the ultimate challenge in high-altitude climbing. It is simply “the holy grail of mountaineering.”
“An artist has made this mountain.” -mountaineer and explorer Reinhold Messner
A new book, K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain by bestselling authors Ed Viesturs and David Roberts (Broadway Books, on sale October 13, 2009), compiles the astonishing and compelling stories of this magnificent mountain and grants readers remarkable insight into the minds of the talented climbers who have tried to conquer it. Compiling narratives from the climbers’ own accounts, diary entries, and some of the great books on mountaineering, Viesturs weaves a sprawling narrative that chronicles the tragic and glorious history of K2, where the difference between recklessness and courage is a matter of outcome.
Viesturs focuses on the “six most dramatic seasons in the mountain’s history”-1938, 1939, 1953, 1954, 1986, and 2008. He analyzes each memorable expedition with the measured eye of a master alpinist. Viesturs was the first American to climb the world’s three highest mountains. He has thirty expeditions on 8,000-meter peaks and was the first American to climb all fourteen, and he is only the sixth mountaineer in the world to do so without bottled oxygen. Viesturs says of his subjects, I “imagine my way into their company, where I can ponder the what-might-have-been of their dilemmas.” Knowing well that it is difficult to judge other people’s climbs, he documents their journeys while challenging the sometimes savage view of history.
A summit of K2 serves as a turning point in most climbers’ lives, but death follows the sport like an icy shadow. For every four climbers who reach the summit, at least one dies. (The ratio for Everest is roughly 19 to 1.) Eleven climbers died on K2 in the summer of 2008 and nobody saw it coming. Over the years, K2 has taken far too many experienced climbers. Whether by slip, avalanche, pulmonary or cerebral edema, altitude sickness, hypothermia, thrombophlebitis, falls into crevasses, failed bivouacs, or getting lost in a storm, surviving K2 is no easy task, and thus each expedition-no matter how successful-exacts a cost.
To these climbers, however, the epic accomplishment of summiting K2 is worth any risk as they “walk the fine line between getting away with a stunning triumph and vanishing in the mists.” Viesturs covers their harrowing journeys with great empathy and skill. He knows better than most that alpinism on the 8,000-meter peaks is not just a very dangerous sport, but a way of life.
In K2, Viesturs also covers in depth:
• The tragedy on K2 in 2008 and takes on the critics who compare it with the famous tragedy on Mount Everest in 1996 chronicled by Jon Krakauer in Into Thin Air.
• An explanation of the climbing lifestyle to the layperson.
• His own ascent of K2 in 1992.
• Fritz Wiessner’s virtuoso climbing performance on K2 in 1939.
• The claims of possible high-altitude sabotage in the 1939 expedition.
• K2’s first summit in 1954.
• The “dangerous summer” of 1986, which “scarred the mountain with a series of isolated tragedies.”
• Stories of Sherpa heroism, which often get overlooked.
• The difference between a rock climber and mountain climber.
• The definition of “crumping.”
• The curse of the women of K2.
• His thoughts on the creation of mountaineering “rules” for safety reasons.
On Mount Everest, novice climbers can claim their fifteen minutes on the summit. On K2, experienced climbers struggle to survive. The world’s second-highest mountain is simply too difficult for beginners. Equal parts adrenaline, athleticism, and ambition, climbing K2 has become a quarrel with destiny and the ultimate test for the best climbers in the world. K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain is Viesturs’s hymn of respect to the great mountain. And within its pages lies a fascinating adventure narrative with all of the attributes of great storytelling: heroism and tragedy, mystery, dynamic deeds, and the threat of death.
“If you let on that you’ve reached the top of K2, a hush comes over the room.
And then, invariably, someone will say, ‘Tell us about it.'”
Ed Viesturs has a story to tell.
# # #
About the Authors:
In May 2005, Ed Viesturs became the first American to ascend all fourteen of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks. He lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington, with his wife and three children.
David Roberts is the author of twenty books on mountaineering, adventure, and history. He has written for National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and Smithsonian. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain
Authors: Ed Viesturs with David Roberts
Publisher: Broadway Books
Format: Hardcover; 352 pages; Retail price: $26.00
ISBN 13: 978-0-7670-3250-9
Publication date: October 13, 2009
For more information or to schedule your interview with Ed Viesturs, please contact Tammy Blake in the Broadway Books publicity department at 212/572.2542 or firstname.lastname@example.org