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K2: One Woman's Quest for the Summit

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Among the Mountaineering Elite, K2 is the Ultimate Challenge. Everest is higher -- by just 785 feet -- but K2 is steeper, tougher, and deadlier: Everest has been summited more than 1,300 times, while only 183 men and 5 women have reached K2's fearsome peak since it was first conquered in 1954, and of those, at least 21 never made it back down. On her first effort in 1998, Howkins became one of the handful of women to attempt the peak. On her second attempt in 2000, she was determined to once again climb this ...
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Overview

Among the Mountaineering Elite, K2 is the Ultimate Challenge. Everest is higher -- by just 785 feet -- but K2 is steeper, tougher, and deadlier: Everest has been summited more than 1,300 times, while only 183 men and 5 women have reached K2's fearsome peak since it was first conquered in 1954, and of those, at least 21 never made it back down. On her first effort in 1998, Howkins became one of the handful of women to attempt the peak. On her second attempt in 2000, she was determined to once again climb this daunting peak alpine-style -- without the aid of porters or supplemental oxygen -- a feat accomplished by very few mountaineers. She knew the risks as well as anyone...but even her long experience could not prepare her for what happened high on K2's deadly slopes.
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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
Heidi Howkins, the first American woman to summit K2 -- the world's second tallest peak and one of the most challenging mountains -- recounts her accomplishments in the thrilling K2: One Woman's Quest for the Summit. K2 is framed around a long drive she has with Hiddle, a hitchhiker she picked up just south of the Canadian border, whom she tells about her journey to the summit. Howkins's mesmerizing story emerges as an important addition to the genre of mountaineering tales, providing a woman's perspective on the forbidding peak of K2, a mountain with steeper slopes and more treacherous weather than Mount Everest.

While Howkins is powered by an intense drive to succeed on the mountain -- and to return home safely to her young daughter -- she repeatedly states that "fear is the tool that keeps climbers alive." Fear does play a large role in Howkins's life; she writes about the hallucinations climbers have as a result of oxygen deprivation, the number of colleagues who have lost their lives in pursuit of their dreams, and the dangers that come from climbing in frigid temperatures. Her striking accounts of these extreme situations and the unpredictable challenges that pop up while climbing are jaw-dropping throughout.

Howkins also enraptures readers in what may seem like mundane details to other climbers. She answers some of the obscure questions about how she goes to the bathroom (in a little bottle), gets water (she melts it down), and what she eats (one meal was horse fat and mustard).

An inspiring story of an exceptional woman, K2 leaves readers in awe of all of Howkins accomplishments, both on K2 and on the other peaks she has climbed. (Soozan Baxter)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1997, Howkins applied for a permit to climb Kanchenjunga, or K2the "savage mountain"the second highest peak in the world at 8,616 meters (or 28,267 feet) and in many ways more difficult than Everest. "It is the ultimate goal for many climbers, and reaching the summit is akin to winning the Olympic gold," writes Howkins, the first American woman to reach the base of K2's summit peak. The first three-quarters of this fascinating but uneven book trace Howkins's journey from planning to final descent. Howkins's photographic recall of events, places and details of what climbers endure yields statements like "glove fuzz and sheer exhaustion and carbon monoxide poisoning from cooking inside a tent are not the main obstacles to eating.... the higher you go, the more your appetite diminishes." Unlike some swooning climber-authors, Howkins doesn't romanticize her struggles. ("I once heard someone define Himalayan climbing as the `art of suffering.' I understand the suffering part, but I'm not sure I fully grasp the artistic challenge.") But her book is flawed by the structural conceit of telling her tale to a hitchhiker. The strength of her story (including an increasingly psychotic husband-climbing partner) is better served when she simply tells it, sans hitchhiker, in the last quarter of the book, which recounts an unsuccessful attempt up K2 in 2000. However, this very personal account of the climbing experience, including the rampant sexism that pervades the climbing community, is an important addition to the ever-growing genre. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. (May) Forecast: To coincide with the release of this book about adventure from a woman's point of view, CNBC will air a National Geographic Explorer special entitled Surviving K2, followed by coverage by the networks. Meanwhile, the author will drum up sales in a cross-country tour with stops in Boston, Seattle, New York, Denver, Berkeley, Boulder and Portland, Ore. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792264248
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 9/1/1902
  • Series: Adventure Press Series
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 4.06 (w) x 5.96 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue
Part 1
1 Dla Wanda 1
2 Postmortem Underwear Acquisition 5
3 Falling Things 15
4 Inaki 27
5 Gestation 35
6 Tell Them It's My Religion 55
7 Feline Things 65
8 Kanch Avalanche 75
9 The Labyrinth 87
10 The Yellow Slicker Story 101
11 Frozen Minutes 107
12 Requiem 125
13 Frozen Guiness 137
14 Metamorphosis 143
15 The Black Pyramid 149
16 The Gondogoro La 161
17 Non Sequiturs 177
18 Main Street 187
Part 2 1999-2000
19 Everest: Elephant in a Dark House 193
20 Warning Signs 203
21 Mishaps 213
22 The Phone Factor 229
23 Mazar 241
24 Silence of the Heart 249
25 Splitovas 255
26 The Postcard, Revisited 265
Postscript 268
Acknowledgments 269
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2005

    The Softest Landing

    I enjoyed the presentation of the story in this book. The manner in which Ms. Howkins told us her story was unusual and intriguing. The story, although filled with exciting, mountaineering adventure, has a much deeper theme in my opinion. A theme in which she struggles with the understanding of why events unfolded as they did on the sides of the dangerous mountain, K2. One of Ms. Howkin's chapters begins with a statement made by Kurtz's deluded girlfriend in Joseph Conrad's, Heart Of Darkness. However, unlike Kurtz's girlfriend (and as Conrad's storyteller felt; women in general), Ms. Howkins has (1) looked into the 'heart of darkness' and (2) has seen it. Two very separate occurrences. Having done so, Ms. Howkins has the answers to all her questions as to the treatment she received from her fellow climbers on K2, during K2000, within her grasp. Like a high rise steel worker who returns to the ground to find that there, too often, is as much horror, of a type born of envy and greed, to be found in the heart of man as there is in keeping his balance thirty stories up; Ms. Howkins leads us through her personal maze which leads to the realization that love makes for the softest landing of them all. And her allusion to the fact that despite the allure, that love can be much more easily lost and snuffed out, rather than found, on the slopes of the world's most dangerous mountains. In my opinion, the book, K2, One Woman's Quest For The Summit, is well worth the read.

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