No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 begins ominously, as two members of the 2008 American team attempting to scale the legendary—and legendarily dangerous—Himalayan peak turn back from their summit attempt, convinced that a late start and trail conditions make it unsafe to continue. As they wait in camp, their worries come true on the mountain above. A day envisioned as the thrilling culmination of months of effort turns into 48 hours of disaster from which many climbers never return.
Journalist Graham Bowley takes readers right onto the mountain, narrating the harrowing events on K2 as they unfold, with each chapter told from the perspective of a different climber. These chapters alternate with accounts of previous attempts to scale the mountain, which is 780 feet shorter than Everest but significantly more challenging. As avalanches shear away ropes, darkness falls and rescue attempts succeed and fail, the book becomes impossible to put down.
Though No Way Down shows the mountain’s appeal, as well as the strength of the climbing community, it also reveals a level of selfishness, greed and loss that brings the whole endeavor into question. Some of Bowley’s authorial decisions are also questionable, like detailing the thoughts of climbers he didn’t interview and not mentioning disputes over some of the events he recounts until the epilogue. Nevertheless, the vivid story will captivate readers. No Way Down doesn’t just tell a harrowing adventure story—it will also make you think.