- Into the Clouds: The Race to Climb the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain by Tod Olson
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-338-20736-1 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-338-20737-8 $11.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-9
While popular attention focused on scaling Mt. Everest, the world’s highest peak, climbing teams out to prove their mettle recognized the more daunting challenge as K2, deep within the Himalayas. Among the early expeditions to attempt to reach the summit was an American team, led by med school student Charlie Houston in 1938, whose assignment was simply (simply!) to reconnoiter K2 in advance of Fritz Wiessner’s team, which would then follow the recommended path up and claim the glory. Houston brought his team within close enough range to go rogue and dash for the top, only to be undone by forgotten matches. The Wiessner expedition that followed fared worse, despite the advance intelligence, and returned with fatalities rather than triumph on their record. Houston returned in 1953—older, wiser, better equipped—but again, K2 seemed intent to drive humans off its face, and another climber was added to the death toll. Readers familiar with K2 lore will recognize that Lino Lacedelli, not Houston, is credited with conquering the mountain, and that this chapter of K2 history is therefore not going to end well. However, Olson’s edge-of-the-seat narrative, lively analysis of rival climbing philosophies and the outsized effects of tiny mistakes, along with engrossing expedition photographs, will enthrall newbies and cognoscenti alike, and source notes and extensive bibliography can direct enthusiasts to primary source and multimedia materials.