Overview

“… Left alone with no or practically little knowledge of what plans are being held or made for advance has a tendency to place one in the position of ‘sitting on needles’ … One should not be yanked 4000 or 5000 ft. higher without proper time and consideration for acclimatization. All men are not equal and some can take, others can not! … Being a member of a drastically unequal party [as] regards age, position and ability combined with experience (and I shall not try to judge my own position) I might say the experiment has been a failure in all
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K2 and the 1939 Tragedy

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Overview

“… Left alone with no or practically little knowledge of what plans are being held or made for advance has a tendency to place one in the position of ‘sitting on needles’ … One should not be yanked 4000 or 5000 ft. higher without proper time and consideration for acclimatization. All men are not equal and some can take, others can not! … Being a member of a drastically unequal party [as] regards age, position and ability combined with experience (and I shall not try to judge my own position) I might say the experiment has been a failure in all except congeniality …” — From Jack Durrance’s expedition diary, July 20, 1939 The story of the 1939 American K2 expedition is well known among mountaineers: world-class German-born climber Fritz Wiessner and Pasang Dawa Lama came within 800 feet of attaining the world’s second-highest unclimbed summit before turning back for more supplies. Rejoining them on the descent was Dudley Wolfe, who had stayed not far below. Upon reaching the lower camps, the party found them stripped of supplies and deserted. Wiessner decided to descend further to investigate, and left Wolfe behind — alone. Later, unable to descend solo, Wolfe had to be rescued; but the attempt failed, and Wolfe and Sherpas Pasang Kikuli, Pasang Kitar, and Phinsoo died. Initially, Wiessner was held responsible, but in time the blame shifted to climber Jack Durrance and another Sherpa. The disaster was considered one of the worst accidents in the climbing history of the Himalaya. It was also the subject of much speculation for years afterward; in 1961, Italian climber Fosco Maraini claimed it a tragedy “ on which no full light has ever been shed.” For some historians, the speculation would not rest. There were too many missing pieces, inconsistencies, and unanswered questions for a disaster of this scale. Unfortunately, reliable documentation was scarce. So was the cooperation of the remaining expedition members, who did not want to rekindle the controversy that arose from the expedition’s failure. They echoed the neutral statement issued by the investigating committee of the American Alpine Club in 1940, which said, in effect, let sleeping dogs lie. When Andrew J. Kauffman and William L. Putnam later began work on Wiessner’s biography, they found discrepancies in the account of the K2 incident. Intrigued, they dug deeper and began to uncover a larger tangle of events than had been previously suspected. The recent availability of Jack Durrance’s own trip diary further enabled them to unravel the events of the ill-fated adventure on K2. K2: The 1939 Tragedy retraces the expedition’s key elements — the debilitating weather, the personalities and weaknesses of party members, Wiessner’s “romantic vision” uncharacteristic of the climbing era —and reveals the steps that led toward catastrophe. This story stands as one of the most dramatic, complex, and instructive in mountaineering history. K2: The 1939 Tragedy attempts to balance the accounts of this fifty-year-old saga.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940016490120
  • Publisher: Light Technology Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/1/1993
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 768,265
  • File size: 14 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

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