K2 – The Savage Mountain is the story of the Third American Karakoram Expedition that were challenged to summit the 2nd highest peak in the world K2, in the summer of 1953. As with many of these real-life stories, they got so close yet so far.
Some of the crew in this expedition had been on a previous trip so had some experience with what K2 had to offer. They were familiar with the routes and possible camp spots so they had what they needed to make this a successful climb. They also had all they needed to know that this was also a seriously dangerous undertaking.
K2 – The Savage Mountain starts with detailing the expedition from it’s conception through to building the team and fundraising. You get a real sense of all the work a feat like this requires, and how much work is invested beyond the climbing on the mountain. Houston adds the history of the area and the climbing of the mountain as well giving the reader some added context to what they were trying to achieve. There was the base camp prep, acclimatisation as well as, of course, the climb itself
Published in 1954, within a year of the expedition, you have a real sense of closeness to the climbers and the reality of what happened on that mountain. This is emphasised even more by the fact it was written by the expedition leader Charles Houston and his associate Robert Bates. The writing style is pretty grounded – no hyperbolic statements but detail-led matter-of-factness. The leadership of Houston and the expertise of Bates comes through in their writing, creating a sense of calmness despite the dire situation that they found themselves in.
It’s often a grim but gripping read, leaving the reader willing the group on to reach their objective – safety. I felt on edge once they were on K2, but it didn’t stop it from being a page turner.
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