K2 is the world’s second highest mountain, but its savage reputation is second to none. The loss of Alison Hargreaves and six companions in 1995 was a grim echo of the multiple deaths in 1986 and of earlier disasters which have become part of climbing legend. K2 has always attracted the greatest names in mountaineering. Wiessner, Houston, Bonatti, Diemberger and Bonington are among those whose lives have been permanently scarred by their experiences on it. At the same time some inspiring new routes have been achieved on the world’s most difficult 8000-metre peak.
Jim Curran, himself a survivor of 1986, has traced the history of the mountain from the nineteenth-century pioneer explorers down to the present, and sees a repeating pattern of naked ambition, rivalry, misjudgement and recrimination. He has also found selfless heroism and impressive route-making on the mountain that top climbers will always covet as the ultimate prize.