on July 20, 2010
Freddie Wilkinson should be highly commended for writing a book about a mountaineering tragedy from the climbing Sherpa's point of view. There are other books on the market which deal with the K2 tragedy, but this is the only one which focusses on the locals involved. In fact, in nearly a hundred years of Himalayan climbing, it is only one of three books to look at that enterprise from the Sherpa point of view.
As others have mentioned, it is also well written, insightful, ironic, and done from the perspective of someone who climbs and knows the right questions to ask. We can only hope that this book will start a new trend in mountaineering literature and that the indigenous people who do most of the work and account for the ultimate success of nearly every expedition, will finally begin to receive the credit they deserve. Fortunately, Wilkinson has set a high standard in this regard.
My only quibble is that a number of the sources, including my own on the Sherpas of Rolwaling, could have been better documented. If a person's research is worth mentioning, then so is the correct reference.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Freddie Wilkinson from whom we hope to see more good books in the future.
on July 15, 2010
I will be entirely honest, I picked up this book with a hint of skepticism in my brow. I love the mountains but I have never loved climbing literature. This book not only tells the compelling story of the 2008 tragedy on K2 but it boldly explores the multidimensional worlds of climbing, international relations and the media. Wilkinson does a magnificent job of gracefully transitioning between thoughtful explanations of elaborate climbing scenarios and carefully detailing the relationships, infrastructure and social constructs that have grown from the pursuit of big mountain climbing. If you lust after high altitude adventure...If you are curious about the economic impact of tourism in third world nations...If you have ever found yourself in a unique leadership position this book will resonate with you.
Lastly, I encourage you to read slowly and look for the flashes of "pure Freddie" scattered throughout the book. Mr. Wilkinson's humor and zest for life are presence in terrific one liners throughout the novel.
BUY THIS BOOK!
on January 22, 2011
The mountaineer author tells the story of the 2008 K2 tragedy in two sections - one the story of how the story broke on the internet and in the media, the other focusing on the heroes including Gerard McDonnell, Pemba Gyalje, Tsering (Chhiring) Bhote, and Big Pasang Bhote. There are 8 pages of bw photos and two climbing routes.
Wilco van Rooijen, the leader of the Dutch Norit expedition, used his satellite phone to call in live updates to both his internet webmaster Marten van Eck and his wife Heleen on summit day and as the tragedy unfolded. Initially using the Norit website, the media frenzy started looking for more information fed from other blogs and people at K2 Base Camp. Where the Norit website was cautious in giving out only verified information, some of the other blogs and people gave more information, including speculation and rumours on what was happening. This fueled some misinformation as the story continued to unfold, "until the spin itself threatened to taint the survivors' recollections and the factual evidence at hand." We also acutely feel the worry of those at home vigilantly watching the internet for any word of their loved ones.
For the second half of the book, the author interviewed many of the western survivors and travelled to Kathmandu several times to interview the surviving Sherpas to piece together the story. What he discovered was the selfless heroism that shone through the tragedy.
Gerard McDonnell selflessly worked for many hours to free two Koreans and Jumik Bhote who were tangled in ropes on the Traverse, only to be swept to his death when an ice avalanche from the serac hit him descending the Traverse. ExplorersWeb gave their Best of ExplorersWeb 2008 Award to Gerard McDonnell: "The most selfless effort was made by Irish Gerard MacDonnell, who after two nights on K2's upper slopes including one in an open bivouac, resolved to alone stay and help two Korean climbers and a Nepali Sherpa, climbers he didn't know. Gerard knew well that his effort seriously put his own life at risk. His action is almost unmatched on the 8000ers. ... Gerard was called 'Jesus' by his peers. 'Hero' is a better word."
Pemba Gyalje, Chhiring Dorje, and Pasang Lama down climbed the Traverse and Bottleneck to Camp IV in the dark without fixed ropes with pieces of the serac falling around them and Pasang Lama without an ice-axe. Pemba Gyalje went back up the next day to bring down Marco Confortola who had fallen asleep at the bottom of the Bottleneck. After rousing Marco and starting to descend, an ice avalanche occurred and Pemba grabbed Marco and was able to pull him out of the way of the falling ice, covering him with his own body. Later Pemba went out in search for the lost Wilco van Rooijen and, after Wilco was spotted descending slightly off the Cesan route, descended to Camp III and the next day found Wilco and helped him back to base camp.
Tsering (also spelled Chhirring) Bhote, Jumik's brother, and Big Pasang Bhote left Camp 4 at midnight on August 1 to climb up to the stranded climbers, but they found a lost Korean Go Mi-sun and brought her back to camp IV. The next morning they went out again to climb to the stranded climbers, found Marco at the bottom of the Bottleneck and phoned Pemba Gyalje to come up and bring him down. The ice avalanche (where Pemba saved Marco's life) killed Big Pasang Bhote, the two Koreans and Jumik Bhote. Luckily, Tsering Bhote was a bit lower than Big Pasang Bhote and was able to run to some large rocks that protected him.
I highly recommend this book to understand the frightening and heroic story of K2 in 2008 from the internet and media perspective, the heroic rescues of the stranded climbers, and providing insights and details of the Sherpas invoved. The use of sat phones to provide live feeds to internet websites and blogs, and how the media frenzy unfolded is interesting and reflects so much modern media stories. I enjoyed reading about the Sherpas, their personalities, how money fuelled them to become climbers, and how they live in Kathmandu. I was disappointed in the small number of photos, not even in colour.
For one man's harrowing story of survival, I recommend Surviving K2 by: Surviving Three Days in the Death Zone by Wilco van Rooijen.
For a minute-by minute summary of the events, including all the players in the K2 2008 tragedy, I recommend No Way Down: Life And Death On K2 by Graham Bowley.
Ed Viesturs devotes a chapter of his excellent book K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain to share his views on the heroes and the contributing factors to the tragedy.
on July 7, 2010
Freddie Wilkinson's personal alpine climbing and mountaineering experience add a layer of credibility, understanding and explanation to this perspective of one of mountaineering's deadliest moments. Told from an inclusive background with interviews from sources both Sherpa and Western, it gives the full perspective. Must read.
on July 10, 2010
This book kept me up for five nights in a row. It explores perspectives that are seldom discussed in the 8,000 meter peak climbing world -- those of the porters and Sherpas -- but it does it honestly, not through rose colored glasses. It makes clear the ridiculousness of the atmosphere surrounding high altitude mountaineering, extreme peak bagging and the media that follow it. And it is written from a climber's perspective, and Wilkinson asks questions only a climber would ask, but he breaks things down so any armchair mountaineer can understand the nuances. If you like adventure buy this book; you won't be disappointed.
on August 20, 2011
"One Mountain Thousand Summits" is an informative look at the modern mountain-climbing industry through the lens of an experienced mountain climber himself. It used to be that summitting Everest or any 8,000 meter plus mountain was an act of tremendous courage, endurance, and talent. Individuals would need to train for decades, planning meticulously while honing their skills before even making such an attempt. The few who for whatever reason found purpose and love in mountain-climbing were truly a band of brothers, and the history of mountain-climbing is filled with acts of heroism and sacrifice, individuals wounded and disabled who would sacrifice their own lives so that their teammates may live. Mountain-climbing was a team sport, where if an individual from the team summitted the team considered itself triumphant.
The modern-day mountain-climbing industry is a different animal altogether. Nowadays, with modern technology and the development of the industry, anyone who is reasonably fit and wealthy can attempt to summit Everest and even K2, its deadlier brother. "One Mountain Thousand Summits" is an attempt to explain the 2008 K-2 expedition where 11 people were killed. There were a litany of reasons why the expedition went so wrong: the lack of inexperience and ability of many who tried to summit, the cross-cultural conflicts and misunderstandings that inevitably arise when you have so many teams together, the individual ego, the lack of planning and co-ordination and communication. There were a lot of heroism on the K-2 expedition, but it was heroism that was caused by the selfishness and narrow-mindedness of many on that expedition.
This is an excellent introduction to mountain-climbing, and the author does a great job of explaining the mechanics behind and the challenges facing mountain-climbing, that ultimately it is a team exercise, and that at 8,000 meters above sea level anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and a small mistake is magnified significantly.
This book is very much a cautionary tale, and a much needed public service announcement. Unfortunately, it's not going to stop the increasing number of individual thrill-seekers seeking glory on K-2. There's just too many of them, and that "high" is just way too much a thrill for them to just let go.
on October 10, 2012
I have now read nearly everything concerning the 2008 K2 tragedy, and I must admit this book is different in its approach, one that I like. One Mountain Thousand Summits by Freddie Wilkinson covers the tragedy from nearly every person involved, but most importantly includes the Sherpas. The prologue allows you to feel the sense of chaos that began just after dusk, not long after everyone had summited. Wilkinson, a mountaineer himself, is able to create the sentiment of each person in such detail that you might as well have been right there with everyone. You are transported from base camp to the bottleneck, through the traverse, up to the summit, and then into the darkness of this unfortunate disaster. You read exactly what happened with no prejudice and are introduced to each person and their heart. The final chapter `Belief' gives certain opinions (with plenty of logic and explanations) that are very difficult to argue.
on July 26, 2011
It's Been So Hot I've Been Reading About Himalayan Disasters
July 26, 2011 -- Miriam Sagan | Edit
The rain seems to finally be here in Santa Fe, but it has been so hot that I've been sitting in the one room with AC reading ONE MOUNTAIN THOUSAND SUMMITS by Freddie Wilkinson, an account of a climbing disaster on K2.This mountain is so difficult and ferocious that it doesn't even have a name, but like a gangster goes by a moniker. The world's second highest mountain killed eleven climbers in 2008. Why do I care? I've never climbed anything more arduous than crawling out on a fire escape to drink a glass of wine and watch the sunset.
For years I've loved accounts of extremis-particularly when my emotional life was difficult. Who dies? Who survives? And why? This book doesn't really answer these questions. Accounts of survivors are confused and contradictory-typical not just of emergencies but of hypoxia.
Wilkinson says-"History is written by the victors-in mountaineering, it might be said that history is written by the white man with the satellite phone." The author attempts to rectify this by also focusing on Sherpas-some climbing for pay, some as professional climbers-and the confusion of culture clash that has always marked Himalayan expeditions. This book is not Jon Krakauer's INTO THIN AIR which by the grace of his writing makes a mythic subject matter somehow even bigger. But it was thrilling in its own way-and very cooling.
on April 29, 2011
Maybe if you are a mountain climber this book is for you - it's obvious the author knows a lot about the climbing world, but I have to agree that the style of writing is disjointed and fragmented, rambling here, rambling there, and then jumping to a completely different place altogether. So if you are climber maybe you don't need to have things threaded together in a coherent fashion, because you more or less know all the parties involved. But I would prefer some sort of narrative I could follow, that was to the point, that didn't wander over to descriptions of a family member miles away going over to another person's house.
And another thing, there is a huge emphasis on the media, and the effect of the media, on mountain disasters, the author goes on and on about the role of the media and the satellite phones and web sites. Well, as a non-climber, it is true that CNN slaps up an article when a mountain disaster occurs. But it's hardly with the emphasis the author seems to imply, compared to other top stories of a given day - the author seems to think the whole world stops, aghast, at the latest mountaineering scandal - as far as I can tell in the general news realm it rates a half web page if that (maybe it's different in Europe).
In any case, I got so bored I have put this down for now, the author seems to be trying for a description of human pathos the way "Into Thin Air" or the "Perfect Storm" succeeded with, but doesn't seem to have the writing skills to pull it off. Regret this purchase, but at some point will try again to get through it, or pass it to another reader.
on August 28, 2011
I loved this book because it made me feel something! I felt I was one of those Sherpas, in Freddie's description in the very first part of the book, trying to get down the worst part of K2 after an avalanche disaster occurred. The book jumped in several places but I feel it had to because it had to provide the all encompassing variations and stories of the disasters going on on K-2 because 11 people died and not all together!
But what I loved most about this book is the perspective of the Sherpas, for in my other readings they are never considered. They are there! They are intuitive and they know what is going on on that mountain. They are not just there to carry the loads and set ropes people. We should be bowing down to them in reverence for letting us be in their country and we go against every grain that is different from their Buddhists Beliefs of community, service to community, and risking life and limb for others....a lesson we all sorely need in some cases on those mountains e.g. Francys Asentiev, David Sharp, and for anyone else that has died in vain of getting help. Gerard Mcdonnell was such a man!!! He gave up his life to save others! We so adhered to our standards of not believing that he could have helped those Koreans that he was literally thought to be "out of it" when in fact his conscience dictated otherwise - proof from pictures, interviews with the sherpas, and estabiishing timelines.
Freddie, I loved your book and can't wait to read about other adventures. I also love those Sherpa people with all my heart - they remind me of the folks I lived with in Liberia, West Africa for almost 3 years....
Cynthia M Andersen Golden, CO