Come on, who wouldn’t want to read a book with “life and death” in the title? Guaranteed action and adventure! However, I was not expecting the adventure that the authors described in the short three-hundred and some odd pages. The story of their adventures goes beyond inspiring . . . beyond persevering . . . and right into the annals of history. Epic is the only word that justly describes their experiences. If you have wondered what life is like at the highest ridges and peaks on the planet then forge onward with this book.
Not only does Ed relate his own experience on the mountain many call K2, but he builds you up to that expedition the same way he built himself up. He navigates you through the history of Mountaineering better than just about any other person could. He acquaints you with the mountains and people that conquered them. This history quickly takes you higher than most people will ever get a chance to experience. You will travel from the Alps to the Cascades, to the Andes, to the Himalaya and the Karakorum. Before you know it you are above 20,000 feet and won’t be let down for the rest of the book. Even while reading it in the comfort of my own home I felt short of breath. It almost seemed I should check myself for hypothermia from time to time.
The historical travel log that you are taken through can get a little hard to follow. Later in the book you are glad you have the exposure however. You start to learn the lingo, the people and the needed characteristics. The history builds upon itself, like the authors are building a case against the mountain. Getting ready to take it to trial. You know that they will be the judge only through experience. The case that is laid before you is a tough one as more and more deaths are accounted. Each story tragic.
The travel log gradually evolves into a competition of sorts. Relaying the contests to reach the highest mountains; K2 (in the Karakorum) and Mount Everest (Himalaya). Each mountain poses several risks. Risks humans were not created to take on, yet they do. Death becomes a normal part of each expedition Ed takes you through. How can people do this, you ask? Everest is quickly conquered it seems, the tallest mountain now scaled by humans. K2, at ONLY 28,251 feet is not. All kinds of firsts on Everest are completed, but K2 remains unscathed at the peak. Each team is turned away from their goal and the death toll increases. It seems that K2 is more than just a tall mountain.
Each heartbreaking moment of the K2 expeditions are related in a way that puts you on the hills and in the tents. You eventually learn of the first assent to the top. Full of adventure, but also deceit and tragedy. Many of the expeditions are tainted with curse-like bad luck.
Ed then relates his own expedition. Using what he learned about the others. Combining his previous experience. He packs you up with him and takes you along. Base Camp, the Gaudwin-Austin Glacier, the Abruzzi Ridge, the shoulder and beyond. So, have you wondered what it is like above 26,000 ft? This book is a harrowing example of people being pushed to their limit and pushing back at the limit.
If you could not tell, I enjoyed this book. Sometimes it gets a little technical; heavy in the mountaineering. Yet, each story of each expedition teaches you a little something about people and how they act when pushed to the limit. Ed invites you into his experience and teaches you about how to dig deep into yourself. Trust yourself. What he uses to survive in the worst situations a person could be in. It is a little sad to see how people can put themselves in harm’s way just for the sake of getting to the top. But for the rest of us this book serves as a great example of human fortitude and adventure.