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Savage Summit: The Life and Death of the First Women of K2 Paperback – December 27, 2005
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“Jordan...gives us a sense of the rapture that comes from standing on top of the world’s highest mountains.” (Los Angeles Times)
“For mountain-climbing enthusiasts and women’s history buffs, Jordan’s well-researched survey is worthwhile reading...” (Publishers Weekly)
“SAVAGE SUMMIT fills an interesting and neglected place in mountaineering literature.” (American Alpine Club Magazine)
About the Author
Jennifer Jordan has lived at the base of K2 twice while writing and producing the National Geographic documentary The Women of K2. She is a writer, producer, public speaker, and journalist, having created, produced, and hosted her own public radio talk show. Jennifer lives with her husband, filmmaker and adventurer Jeff Rhoads, in Salt Lake City.
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Jennifer Jordan concludes that Chantal's years of mountaineering experience would make it highly unlikely that she would "allow" herself to be smothered in her tent in a snowstorm--that it would be a horrible "rookie mistake" for her not to know to shovel out periodically during the storm. However, Jennifer Jordan spends the bulk of the chapters about Chantal detailing how she was very good at manipulating her male teammates to do mountain work, relating stories from multiple partners (albeit male) indicating that Chantal never hesitated to sleep in and let the guy do the hard work (whether laying ropes, pitching tents, or going to a lower camp to pick up a sleeping bag). Chantal is a fantastic climber, but from the snapshot we obtain from the stories in the book, I can see it being highly probably that she and her friend Pemba Sherpa reached a camp spot, he no doubt did all of the work prepping it, and then she went in, let him make water, food, etc, and she promptly went to sleep secure in the belief that he would get up the multiple times necessary to clear the tent in the storm. Ms Jordan even notes how quickly one can suffocate in a closed tent. The simple mistake of Pemba Sherpa falling asleep could have doomed them both to a deayh from smothering, and then damage to the bodies by avalanche post mortem.
In short, Ms Jordan didn't sufficiently build her case that Chantal had the adequate camp skills in order to save her own life in a storm. Climb an 8000 meter peak? Yes. But all stories of Chantal in camp, whether at BC or on the mountain, indicate how much she hated camp work and would leave it to others. Chantal was an excellent climber, but not a mountaineer, in my opinion. Because mountaineers actually live on the mountains whereas Chantal just climbed.
By the end, it was also clear that the author was unable to maintain journalistic distance from one of her subjects. In fact, it seemed as though she had fallen in love with the climber who served as the anchor of her book. This seems to have led her down the path of casting aspersion on the incredible achievements of Edurne Pasaban and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, two incredible, determined women that have surpassed the author's hero and summitted all 14 8000m peaks.
Jordan's writing style pulls you into the stories of these five incredible climbers. As flawed as these women are, we identify with them, cheer for them, grieve for them. We learn about their careers in the mountains, their personal lives, their love lives, their quirks, and for the two survivors, what they did after K2. The story of Wanda Rutkiewicz' death on Kangchenjunga in 1992, six years after her summit of K2, was particularly moving.
I could not put this book down. The only thing that would make this book better would be an update that includes the story of Edurne Pasaban, a Spanish climber who summitted K2 in 2004 and Oh Eun-Sun who summitted in 2007. I would be particularly interested in Jordan's take on the competition between these two women to become the first female to conquer all 14 of the 8,000+ meter summits. The controversy that resulted could even become a book that stands on its own, and Jennifer Jordan would be the ideal writer for that book.