I read “K2: The Savage Mountain” by Charles Houston and Robert Bates over break after Sarah and Andrew highly recommended it. The book is about a 1953 American expedition to K2 that undergoes some serious hardships on the mountain, including illness, horrific weather, and the death of a member of their party. It is also referenced in Tabor’s book as an example of a group that “coalesce[s] around their leaders so passionately that they would remember the trip fondly for the rest of their lives” (Tabor 71). I thought I would share a passage from the beginning of the book, as it addresses the question of why people climb mountains.
In the first chapter, entitled “The Call to Climb,” Houston writes: "In the year that has passed since our ordeal we have been asked that question many times and have answered it in many ways. No answer is complete or satisfactory. Perhaps there is no single answer; perhaps each climber must have his own reasons for such an effort. The answer cannot be simple; it is compounded of such elements as the great beauty of clear cold air, of colors beyond the ordinary, of the lure of unknown regions beyond the rim of experience. The pleasure of physical fitness, the pride of conquering a steep and difficult rock pitch, the thrill of danger--but danger controlled by skill--are all also there. How can I phrase what seems to me the most important reason of all? It is the chance to be briefly free of the small concerns of our common lives, to strip off nonessentials, to come down to the core of life itself. Food, shelter, friends--these are the essentials, these plus faith and purpose and a deep and unrelenting determination. On great mountains all purpose is concentrated on the single job at hand, yet the summit is but a token of success, and the attempt is worthy in itself. It is for these reasons that we climb, and in climbing find something greater than accomplishment” (Houston 1).
Anyway, I enjoyed reading the book and thought I would pass along the recommendation.
Houston, Charles and Bates, Robert. K2: The Savage Mountain. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press. 2009. Print.