In summer of 1986, nine expeditions, whose members totaled twenty-seven people, tried to climb the Himalayan mountain known as K2. Thirteen of those climbers died, seven after they had made it to the top. With such a large number of casualties, unusual even in as dangerous a sport as mountaineering, much media attention was focused on the climbers. Jim Curran has a gory tale of deaths and frostbite to tell and he relates it in plain, quickly moving prose. His color photographs of the climbers and the mountains are often more eloquent than the text. The youthful faces of the climbers, soon to be dead, give one pause. There are many images of the mountain from different aspects, chilling in its beauty. Then there are the photographs of some of the survivors, injured by the climb. One man, with fingers bloodied and blackened by frostbite, looks at least eighty years old, although the author describes him as being in early middle age.
Curran’s book will probably not influence many readers to take up mountaineering. For admirers of the intrepid adventurers who climb “because it is there,” K2: TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY will be a valuable addition to the already extensive library about mountaineering. Readers should be prepared, however, for clinical details of frostbite and other distressing physical woes resulting from this highly dangerous activity.