NO WAY DOWN
Life and Death on K2
BY GRAHAM BOWLEY
In this riveting work of narrative nonfiction, journalist Graham Bowley re-creates one of the most dramatic tales of death and survival in mountaineering history, vividly taking readers through the tragic 2008 K2 ascent that claimed the lives of eleven climbers, severely injured two others, and made headlines around the world.
With its near-perfect pyramid shape, the 28,251-foot K2—the world's second-highest mountain, some 800 feet shorter than the legendary Everest hundreds of 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 ten international teams—some experienced, others less prepared—crowded the mountain's dangerous slopes with their Sherpas and porters, waiting to ascend.
Finally, on August 1, they were able to set off. But hindered by poor judgment, lack of equipment, and overcrowded conditions, the last group did not summit until nearly 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, No Way Down reveals for the first time the full dimensions of this harrowing drama.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Graham Bowley was born near Leicester, England, in 1968.
He studied economics at Bristol University and Oxford University. After working briefly as an economist for HM Treasury, he became a journalist and was a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and the international Herald Tribune, living in Frankfurt and Brussels and reporting widely from across Europe. He now lives in New York where he is a staff reporter for The New York Times. He has worked for the newspaper’s Website and on the Times’ foreign desk, and has written for sections such as Week in Review and Travel. He now writes regularly about business news for the Times.
Graham is married and has three children, two daughters and a son. No Way Down is his first book. You can visit Graham's website HERE.
Graham Bowley’s NO WAY DOWN: LIFE AND DEATH ON K2 tells the story a group of climbers who in 1980 set out to triumph over the second highest mountain in the world, K2. This story details how in a sequence of accidents, eleven people were killed. A surprising fact is that even though K2 is not as high as Mount Everest, far less people make it to the summit. About 1,000 people have made it to Mount Everest where only about 300 have summited K2. It has been found that out of every four climbers who try to make it to the summit, one will die in their efforts.
Although not a climber himself, Bowley used primary resources to faithfully reconstruct the conditions surrounding this tragedy. Using photographs and interviews with friends and family of the climbers who perished on K2, as well as actual eye-witnesses to the tragedy, he put his heart and soul into telling this story with the dignity it deserved while not sensationalizing it. The people involved were from all over including Norway, South Korea, Italy, the United States and more. Going around to all these places to track down information was a formidable task, to be sure.
Most of the deaths occurred on the way down. The mountain was like a monster as it unleashed avalanches, enveloped them in extreme cold, caused oxygen deficiency while providing only hazardous slopes for the weary and exhausted climbers to cling to. One misstep and they could plunge to their death.
The descriptive narrative that Bowley writes is fascinating. Readers will find themselves immersed in this rugged, frigid world feeling what it was like to walk in the boots of these people at about 26,000 feet. With the bond these climbers build on their way up to each base camp growing stronger, you also get a chance to see some of the more incredible moments they experienced and fun they had with each other. The human element is strong and makes the tragedy that more poignant. As these climbers from all over work together to reach their illusive goal, reaching the top has to be the shining moment that one surely couldn’t put into words. NO WAY DOWN is hard to put down as you become so involved with the real life characters and will cheer their successes but also mourn, quite honestly, the losses.
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