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K2: The Savage Mountain by Robert Bates

K2: The Savage Mountain (edition 1994)

by Robert Bates (Author)

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1465117,422 (3.91)8
Title:K2: The Savage Mountain
Authors:Robert Bates (Author)
Info:Adventure Library (1994), Edition: 1st, 214 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Adventure Library

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K2, the Savage Mountain by Charles S. Houston



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Showing 5 of 5
A matter-of-fact telling of the failed attempt to summit the second highest peak in the world in 1953. A classic tale of assaulting a mountain, merely because it has not been before and man should be able to do such a thing. ( )
  dougcornelius | Mar 3, 2016 |
2 stars for the writing, 4 stars for the excitement, which, of course curves out to 4 stars.

As I continue with my reading through of mountaineering titles in the library, I ran across this recounting of the 1953 American attempt to reach the summit of K2, the world's second highest peak. K2 is about 900 miles from Everest in the Karakoram range In 1938, a group had made it to within about 1000 feet of the top, but were forced back by bad weather. Storms were to plague the 1953 expedition also.

The difference in how the teams were assembled and how they are collected today is significant. . K2 differs from Everest in that it requires a multitude of climbing skills: snow and rock. Everest requires mostly snow climbing skill. K2 destroyed specialists. They were also careful to pick personality types. (today all it takes is money to get on an expedition to Everest, it seems.) Unable to take Sherpas along because of the still intense border conflict between India and Pakistan, they had to rely on the less experienced Hunzas, white guys being apparently unable to carry their own stuff. And, of course, they had to design much of their own clothing, unlike today's plethora of fancy gear.

Some of the writing cold have stood a good dose of editing. The story of Dudley Wolfe stranded at Camp VII during the 1938 attempt and his abortive rescue that cost the lives of two very brave Sherpas, is told from a couple of different confusing perspectives that had me flipping pages back and forth to figure out exactly what was going on. Here again, what would they do without the Sherpas, or in this case the Hunzas. It reminds me of the "intrepid" crocodile guys, ostensibly out there fighting the wilderness, nobody talking about the poor cameraman (not to mention his truckloads of equipment) who had to go first to get the great shot.

It was astonishing to me that supplies that had been left from the 1938 expedition were still in very good shape after 14 years and quite useable. The explanation was the cold and dryness of the air. Lots of snow though - and wind. Another thing that surprised me was no discussion of oxygen. They didn't have any. On recent Everest climbs, oxygen and the resultant detritus of oxygen bottles, thousands of them, is a big deal. Houston and Bates and the rest of the K2 climbers seem to have acclimated much better than any on the Everest expeditions.

Finally, at Camp VIII, they were ready for an assault on the summit. The idea was to send two climbers to the summit, keeping their names anonymous, in the spirit of teamwork (can you imagine that today?) Vicious storms arose with hurricane force winds and lots of snow. They were stuck in their tents, unable to do anything except struggle to make tea and stay reasonably warm. Then the unexpected happened. Art developed thrombophlebitis. The danger was a clot might migrate to the lungs. He had to get off the mountain, but was unable to help. That posed a real problem for the rest of the group because it meant not only did they have to get themselves down, difficult enough with increased danger from avalanches from the new snow, they had to maneuver a sick man while climbing very difficult rock at an altitude with little oxygen. And the storms refused to abate.

I must admit that the description of the descent, hauling a man who was virtually a dead weight, lowering him down steep cliffs, in the middle of a monsoon storm, is riveting and the feat extraordinary. Well worth the minor writing deficiencies.
( )
1 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
K2, The Savage Mountain is one of the top ten climbing adventure stories of all time. This Karakoram epic starts as a bit of a sleeper. But the very down to earth writing style of the multiple American authors is actually a symptom of the unpretentious team they assembled. Their descriptions of very difficult climbing and severe weather are made to sound like a walk in the park, but don't be fooled, all hell is about to break loose. After 9 (nine) days trapped at 25,500' in a storm things really start to unravel...

When they left in 1953 an average of 1 in 4 climbers did not return from attempting K2. [SPOILER ALERT ON] For those not already in the know, the climax comes with Pete Schoening's legendary and near mythic belay. There will be no selfish abandoning of team members here – what a delightful contrast to all the recent debacles on Mt. Everest. None of the team will return unscathed and they did their part to decrease the odds of not returning to today's 1 in 7 (!), but you will have to read for yourself to see how many of their climbing party of 8 actually return alive. [SPOILER ALERT OFF]

Photos were a bit flat and unorganized; useless maps and no route map whatsoever; but otherwise a perfect succinct first person expedition narrative. Required reading for all serious students of mountaineering (see the 2000 edition with the foreword by Jim Wickwire for the historical context.) Strongly recommended for all who love a good epic adventure. ( )
  BookWallah | Jul 4, 2010 |
The Americans return to K2 after an absence of 15 years. Houston & Bates combine to tell the story in the same likable style that they wrote their 1938 account. Sadly, this time their climb involves tragedy and drama. Quite a gripping read. ( )
  PAFCWoody | Nov 26, 2009 |
If you were going to write a stereotypical mountain-climb-gone-wrong story about stiff upper-lip types (though American), this is what you'd end up with ... although, frankly, I see nothing wrong with that. ( )
1 vote KromesTomes | Jan 15, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
Here is a great story, simply and grippingly told, which the glory of Everest should not be allowed to obscure.
added by PAFCWoody | editNew York Times, Raymond Holden (Apr 15, 1955)
The story of their K2 adventure is simple, factual - and because of this, all the more moving. This book is a record of failure, but of courageous great-hearted failure, in itself a sort of victory.
added by PAFCWoody | editNew York Herald Tribune, James Ramsay Ullman (Apr 1, 1955)

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles S. Houstonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bates, Robert H.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0916890732, Paperback)

Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. We are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:47 -0400)

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