No Way Down

This book was chilling.

It recounts the tale of eight international teams of mountain climbers who ascended K2, the world’s second-highest mountain.

On Friday, August 1st, 2008 I was likely sitting somewhere in Ohio while this group of climbers summited K2.

Regarded as one of the worst disasters in modern mountaineering history, this day started with some foreboding events including, slow progress above 26,000 feet, the “death zone”, creating a higher risk of altitude sickness, a backlog of climbers in a particularly dangerous area, and most climbers summited much too late in the day to make it down before dark.

However dear reader, this was not the end of their misfortune.

After rejoicing at the summit the group begins descending.

As the sun quickly slips below the horizon a multi thousand ton chunk of ice comes loose and destroys the ropes leading down from the summit. This leaves more than a dozen climbers facing the near impossible task of descending the slippery uncharted path down in sub zero temperatures with no tents and numerous thousand foot cliffs awaiting the unfortunate climber who loses their footing.

After reading this book the conclusion I’ve reached is that I have no desire to climb K2.

So I was absolutely dumb founded when I read the first hand account of someone who had survived the above nightmarish scene and still had the desire to climb dangerous peaks. Read his perspective below:

“He thought about how dreadful it would be to face his friend’s family. The tragedy would no doubt stop some people from coming back. But it would not keep Van de Gevel from returning to the mountains. If he gave up climbing, he knew, he wouldn’t be the same person. When he was climbing, he felt at ease, the most comfortable he ever was. He couldn’t stop thinking about the moment on the summit when the guys had embraced under the dome of the perfect blue evening sky. That is what it was all about. Even this disaster could not rob him of that.”

To hear such dedication to an activity after it has caused so much havoc is something I can not wrap my mind around. It truly is a foreign thought to me. I wonder if this is because of my tendency to be of a logical persuasion or my lack of this level of infatuation/dedication to any sport.

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