Irish Adventurer Pat Falvey launched my book ‘One Foot in Front Of The Other’ here in Dublin and last night it was an honour to return the favour at the Great Outdoors and launch a talk about The Summit Book, with co-authors Pat, and Pemba Gyalje Sherpa. They tell an extraordinary story about the deadliest day on K2 when Irishman Ger McDonnell reached the summit but lost his life on the descent.
On 1 August 2008, 18 climbers from across the world reached the summit of K2, the world’s second highest and most dangerous mountain – a peak which claims the life of one in every four climbers who attempt it. Over the course of 28 hours K2 had exacted a deadly toll: 11 lives were lost in a series of catastrophic accidents.
Over the course of three days, a Nepalese Sherpa called Pemba Gyalje, along with five other Sherpas, was at the centre of a series of attempts to rescue climbers who had become trapped in the Death Zone, unable to escape its clutches and debilitated by oxygen deprivation, chronic fatigue, delirium and a terrifying hopelessness. The tragedy became a controversy as the survivors walked from the catastrophe on the mountain into an international media storm, in which countless different stories emerged, some contradictory and many simply untrue.
Based on Pemba Gyalje’s eyewitness account and drawing on a series of interviews with the survivors which were conducted for the award-winning documentary, The Summit (Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions, 2012), The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2’s Deadliest Days is the most comprehensive interpretation of one of modern-day mountaineering’s most controversial disasters.