One Mountain Thousand Summits

One-Mountain-Cover-ImageThe Untold Story of Tragedy and True Heroism on K2

I would like to request for both professional and non-professional mountaineers please respect the expedition philosophy, that means respect the mountain and try to understand the mountain, respect your own physical and climbing ability in high altitude, try to be good decision maker, summit is only halfway, one mountain thousand summits… – Pemba Gyalje Sherpa
In the early morning hours of August 1st, 2008, more than three dozen men readied in the starry darkness for their final ascent to the summit of K2, the world’s second highest mountain. In little more than 24 hours, 11 climbers would be dead. News of the K2 catastrophe rocketed through the international media. The annals of high altitude mountaineering are filled with stories of storm and slaughter – but this tragedy occurred in perfect weather, under bright, windless skies. What happened? How had the mountain killed so many, so quickly?

The insider’s account of what really happened on K2 is many things: a dark portrayal of the hubris, racial tensions and ethical ambiguities that threaten to consume modern mountaineering, and a honest portrait of how heroism can transcend those divisions. It is not only a tale of high-stakes mountain adventure, but also a chronicle of the grief and anguish experienced by the families of lost climbers, the guilt that haunts those who survive, and society’s macabre attraction to tragedy and how it can subvert the truth. Authored by alpinist and veteran climbing writer Freddie Wilkinson, One Mountain Thousand Summits is a thought-provoking study of modern morality told at the break-neck pace of an action thriller, and an urgent work of investigative non-fiction.


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“Incredibly meticulous, almost forensic analysis…” – Nick Heil, author of Dark Summit, on NPR’s Morning Edition (Listen to the entire review.)

“In his One Mountain Thousand Summits, Freddie Wilkinson tells us what really happened high on K2 in August 2008 when 11 climbers lost their lives….. Especially compelling is the credence Wilkinson gives to the surviving Sherpas’ version of events and the way he weaves the affected families and loved ones into this amazing story of survivors and heroes.  This is a must read because it illuminates the most complex and tragic two days in the mountain’s history.” -Jim Wickwire, coauthor of Addicted to Danger, and the first American (with Lou Reichardt) to summit K2.

One Mountain Thousand Summits finally offers hope that human dignity can prevail in the rarefied air above 8,000 meters.” – Chris Kalous, Rock and Ice Magazine (Read the entire review.)

“Part mystery, part historical perspective on adventure — and compelling the whole way through.” – Fitz Cahall, The Dirtbag Diaries (Listen to the entire podcast.)

“Wilkinson isn’t afraid to examine his own biases, much less those of his subjects, on his journey for the “truth” about what happened. And despite being nowhere near K2 when it happened—indeed because he was so far removed—he is able to weave a fascinating narrative that has room for multiple truths. It is a stark look at the modern media and modern climbing, where heroes go unnoticed, die unreported, or disappear altogether.” – Erik Eisele, The Berlin Reporter

“Wilkinson, a veteran alpinist and mountaineering scribe, closely examines the mysterious tragedy that cost the lives of 11 men on the unforgiving K2, the world’s second highest mountain, on August 2008, in his new book. Interviewing not only the survivors and the families of the victims but the heroic Sherpa guides in Nepal, he gives the daunting legacy of the challenging terrain and a blow-by-blow account, with clinical accuracy and detail, of the disaster that nearly wiped out the international climbing team. Wilkinson also describes what makes an experienced climber challenge himself to risk death using his technical skills, endurance, and mental stamina while battling bone-chilling cold, altutde sickness, and avalanches. In this powerful rendering of a well-publicized grim event, there is so much said about the courage and heroism of the climbers braving these geological wonders and the media’s silence over the neglected native saviors.” – Publishers Weekly

“With an insider’s knowledge of Himalayan climbing and the perseverance of solid research, Freddie Wilkinson goes deep into the lives of the climbers to produce a book that should be essential reading for those wanting to understand the disaster. From the very start, I found One Mountain Thousand Summits riveting.” – Conrad Anker

“Finally, an interesting mountaineering book that actually researches the full story while giving representation to both western climbers as well as eastern ones. Tragic and fascinating – Freddie Wilkinson fills out the complete back story behind the brief headlines that rampaged the world in 2008.” – Reader review,

Author’s note: Early into my research of the 2008 K2 disaster, I realized that I could not fully explain what happened on the mountain without first understanding the complex relationships between the professional native guides and the western climbers who were involved. One Mountain Thousand Summits chronicles my efforts to decipher these complex dynamics and document the terrible event from a variety of perspectives. Although many factors contributed to the tragedy, I believe the single best way to prevent future large-scale accidents on other mountains – especially the crowded 8,000 meter “normal” routes – is through the empowerment of trained, professional Nepali and Pakistani guides.  I wholeheartedly support these two efforts to help both the families of the professional casualties on K2 and further the skills and capabilities of future generations of native Himalayan guides. I encourage readers to get involved. – Freddie Wilkinson

The Gerard McDonnell Memorial Fund / The Mountain Project
Khumbu Climbing Center / Alex Lowe Charitable Trust