No Way Down
Life and Death on K2
By Graham Bowley
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061834783, 288pp.)
Publication Date: July 2010
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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 K2the world's second-highest mountain, some 800 feet shorter than the legendary Everest hundreds of miles to the southhas 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 teamssome experienced, others less preparedcrowded 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 Bottleneckmany without oxygen and some with no headlampsfaced 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.
Graham Bowley is a reporter for the New York Times. He grew up in England and lives in New York with his wife and three children.
K2 -- sometimes referred to as the "holy grail of mountaineering" -- is just 800 feet shorter than Mount Everest, but it is a much more dangerous climb. Writer Nick Heil reviews three new books about expeditions up one of the world's most deadly peaks. More at NPR.org
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-Jan Gardner, Boston Globe
“A compelling narrative from interviews with most of the survivors. . . . The most complete report of the tragedy to date.”
-Grayson Schaffer, Outside magazine
“Both a gripping read and a clear-eyed investigation, No Way Down provides a compelling education in the game of climbing on the world’s highest mountains to readers who have never tied into a rope, and is an essential addition to any mountaineer’s bookshelf.”
-Michael Kodas, author of High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed
“Harrowing. . . . Bowley is an intrepid journalist and gifted storyteller. . . . Thrilling and wrenching.
“Brisk and engrossing. . . . Mr. Bowley reveals a deep sympathy for his characters and their quest. . . . Entertaining.”
-Michael J. Ybarra, Wall Street Journal
“[A] fascinating tour de force…. Bowley wove his tale together after hundreds of interviews with dozens of people, and the result is a triumph of storytelling.”
-Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press
“A fascinating account that does justice to the history, allure and heartache of K2.”
-Kurt Diemberger, author of The Endless Knot
“Riveting and powerful; an extraordinary story of an extraordinary tragedy. Reading No Way Down is the closest you can come to being on the summit of K2 on that fateful day.”
-Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Explorer and Author
“An astonishingly dramatic and sad tale of disaster on K2. Bowley expertly puts together the complex story of what happened as eleven people died high on the summit slopes of K2 in August 2008.”
-Joe Simpson, author of Touching the Void
“Bowley takes readers right onto the mountain…. As avalanches shear away ropes, darkness falls and rescue attempts succeed and fail, the book becomes impossible to put down….. The vivid story will captivate readers. No Way Down doesn’t just tell a harrowing adventure story-it will also make you think.”
“The most comprehensive account of the mystifying chain of events leading to the catastrophe that we shall ever have. It’s a gripping story, full of hope and heartbreak, folly and heroism.”
-David Roberts, co-author with Ed Viesturs of K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain
“Through dogged reporting and vivid storytelling, Graham Bowley reconstructs K2’s 2008 climbing season, one of the most disastrous in history. I read this book in a single, sweaty-palmed sitting, and not because I intended to. I simply couldn’t put it down.”
-Nick Heil, author of Dark Summit
“A page-turning, utterly fresh take on the mountaineering experience, an Into Thin Air for a new century.”
-Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers
“Graham Bowley’s No Way Down does a great job of putting you on the mountain. It is a refreshingly unadorned account of the true brutality of climbing K2, where heroes emerge and egos are stripped down, and the only thing achieving immortality is the cold ruthless mountain.”
-Norman Ollestad, author of Crazy for the Storm
“Bowley relies on a copious study of the events and interviews with survivors and families to artfully and assiduously piece together an account of a fractious day in brutal real time. Fatality by fatality.”
-Holly Morris, New York Times Book Review
“Unputdownable.... A portrait of extreme courage, folly and loss, leavened by a small dose of survival, as complete a version of the calamitous story as will probably ever emerge. . . . [A] step-by-faltering-step recreation of the thin-air fight to survive, bristling with cinematic immediacy.”
-Justin Marozzi, Financial Times