National Geographic Explores the Lure of K2

K2 may not be seeing any climbers this winter, but the world’s second tallest mountain is never far from the thoughts of the mountaineering community. Last month, a new book called The Ghosts of K2: The Epic Saga of the First Ascent was released. It is written by a man named Mick Conefrey, who helped make a BBC documentary about the mountain .

While making that film, Conefrey was fortunate enough to meet a number of the climbers who have taken on K2 over the years, and from those interviews and interactions, he decided to forge ahead with the book, which not only recounts the tale of Italian climbers Achille Compagnoni and Lindo Lacedelli reaching the summit for the first time, but previous attempts to climb the mountain as well.

Earlier in the week, National Geographic posted an interview with Conefrey about his books, the lure of K2, and why it is held in such high regard amongst the top mountaineers in the world. In that interview, he talks about how the mountain got its name, what makes it such a dangerous place, and the strange first attempt to climb it by oculist Aleister Crowley back in 1902.

If you think K2 is tough now, imagine what it must have been like more than a hundred years ago, when the gear used by climbers wasn’t anywhere close to what was used to finally summit the mountain in 1954, let alone now.

Conefrey goes on to talk about the legendary American expedition – led by Charlie Houston – in 1953, as well as the ways K2 tests climbers, both physically and mentally. He also touches on the “curse” of K2 for women climbers, and what the author learned about the mountain by talking to survivors of numerous K2 expeditions.

All in all, an interesting read about a mountain that casts a very large literal and figurative shadow over the mountaineering world. And if you’d like to learn more about it, the BBC documentary that Conefrey made can be watched in its entirety below. It is an eye-opening film, even for those of us who know a few things about K2.

Kraig Becker