Book Review - No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 by Graham Bowley
As part of the Amazon Vine review program, I got an advance reader copy of the book No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 by Graham Bowley. Although it's not something I would ever do myself, I find these life-and-death mountain disaster stories fascinating. It's not possible to read No Way Down without drawing comparisons to Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, which is what I would consider the classic climbing tale of being trapped on a mountain. Unfortunately, I didn't have that same "must keep reading" compulsion here that I had with Krakauer's book...
Bowley writes his account of the K2 disaster in 2008 that claimed 11 lives when a descent from the summit went bad. He interviewed most of the participants and survivors to piece together the timeline and actions from the final summit attempt from Camp 4 to the long descent, complete with avalanches, misplaced rope lines, bad judgement calls, and numerous other mishaps. As an attempt to piece together a factual account of the event, it's ok. It helps to keep in mind that with all the deaths, no account could be 100% complete or accurate. Also, the lack of oxygen at that altitude can and does wreak havoc on the brain, altering memories and the sense of time. But Bowley did his research, and this is likely as complete a picture as we'll ever have.
Where the book slips is in the sense of story. The prologue and first chapter have the climbers heading out from Camp 4 early in the morning to start the summit attempt. There's no sense of build-up, background on the climbers, or an attempt to set any sort of mood. I felt as if I was thrown into the event halfway through, and I hadn't established any connection to the people. In short, I didn't care about them. As I continued to read, that didn't change much. Yes, it was a dramatic and tragic event, but without the connection to the climbers, I didn't feel what I think was trying to be conveyed. Compare this to Into Thin Air, where I couldn't stop thinking about what happened for days.
If you're really into climbing and mountaineering, you'll probably like No Way Down more than I did. But given my previous reading experiences in the mountain disaster vein, No Way Down suffers in comparison.
Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program