One Man’s Climb: a journey of trauma, tragedy and triumph on K2.

I love mountains and exploring the outdoors. The further off the beaten track, the better. So it was only natural that I would be drawn to this book.

Going beyond abstract thought, this book really gave insight into Adrian’s K2 journey.  Triumph, yes….naturally.  Trauma- wow, beyond any comprehension, and tragedy- the raw reality of the challenge that is K2.

The book is well written, and themes of strategy, team selection, teamwork and contingency planning are hinted at throughout. However, surrounding these themes, this book gives a rich context that is so extreme that the narrative sticks steadfast in your mind. The importance of seeking out and selecting the right team, and preparing for a task seem even more significant when you are considering the fine line between (literally) life and death.

It was refreshing to read a mountaineering book with such personal insight, some of which was hilarious to read (though not to experience, I’m sure). There wasn’t a glossy ‘I hiked the biggest mountain’ element anywhere. Instead a good, solid, honest appraisal and reflection of a life changing experience. Although it takes a special kind of person with certain traits to take on K2, the book is written in a way which allows the reader to relate, in their own contexts (provided that’s what you are looking for- otherwise it’s an inspiring story). You can really take what you want to from this read.

It made me reflect upon my life; my goals and aspirations. It made me realise that there was nothing really stopping me, other than myself. That in itself is powerful…… don’t get me wrong, K2 is a little off my mountaineering agenda…. for now, at least.

The thing about this biography which really makes you think, is that it was clear that the hard work wasn’t over when you reach the top. Similar to any life changing experience – someone recovering from an illness, or a person finishing their degree….the experiences are non-comparable yet the essence of the journey is the same. For whatever reason, the journey is life changing, and the hardest part in some ways, is hiking back down the mountain and re-entering everyday life.

I felt as if I was reading personal memoirs, as honest reflections of the whole experience were shared. Though it does leave me thinking about how much ones life perception must change after experiencing such triumph, trauma and tragedy.

For me, the take home message: you can only prepare so much, as there are always certain elements which remain out of your control. Though you must do your best to prepare. When something does happen beyond your control, you must look for opportunity to progress where you can, whilst wait until it is safe to do so. Even the tiniest progress, albeit slower than intended, will allow you to complete the journey. But more than that, don’t just plan for reaching a particular goal- think ahead to what happens after- how do you climb back down the mountain?

Whilst that is my take home message from the book, I assure you, your own may be quite different as this book really makes you think about your own experiences.  If nothing else, it is a remarkable read.  There are a selection of photographs in the middle sections of the book.  When you reach the end, I urge you to look back at those photographs, reading the names.  Without giving too much away, the book (without meaning to be) is a lovely tribute to those who have climbed K2; those who succeeded and those who rest there to this day.

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