The Ghosts of K2

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Pages: 336
Subject: History, Biography
Imprint: Oneworld

The Ghosts of K2

The Epic Saga of the First Ascent

Mick Conefrey

The gripping story of the world's most deadly mountain
9781780748733 (5 May 2016)
RRP £9.99 / US$14.99
9781780749877 (12 Nov 2015)
RRP £0.00
9781780745954 (15 Oct 2015)
RRP £20.00 / US$27.99

The Book

At 28,251 ft, K2 might be almost 800 ft shorter than Everest, but it's a far harder climb. In this definitive account, Mick Conefrey grippingly describes the early attempts to reach the summit and provides a fascinating exploration of the first ascent's complex legacy. From the drug-addicted occultist Aleister Crowley to Achille Compagnoni and Lindo Lacedelli, the Italian duo who finally made it to the summit, The Ghosts of K2 charts how a slew of great men became fixated on this legendary mountain.

Through exclusive interviews with surviving team members and their families, and unrivalled access to diaries and letters that have been archived around the world, Conefrey evokes the true atmosphere of the Savage Mountain and explores why it remains the ‘mountaineer's mountain', despite a history steeped in controversy and death. Wrought with tension, and populated by tragic heroes and eccentric dreamers, The Ghosts of K2 is a masterpiece of mountaineering literature.

Additional Information

Subject History, Biography
Pages 336
Imprint Oneworld

About the Author

Mick Conefrey is the author of Everest 1953, How to Climb Mont Blanc in a Skirt and The Adventurer's Handbook. An internationally recognized filmmaker, he has produced several BBC documentaries on mountaineering and exploration, including the prize-winning ‘The Ghosts of K2'. He lives in Oxford.


'Well researched...vivid...Conefrey narrates each attempt as a gripping story, with mounting tension'.

- Compass Sport

'Conefrey deftly takes on K2's history...and, while most of us will never scale such lofty peaks, Conefrey's book is as close as we can get without having to leave the armchair'.

- Catholic Herald

‘The amateur and professional climbers Conefrey chronicles are so uniformly interesting—and in some cases strange—that they each deserve a separate book, but together they suggest the obsession of the lure of mountains. In the end, The Ghosts of K2 is a history of more than a half-century of mountain climbing.'

- Choice magazine

'Conefrey has a thriller-writer's eye, capturing the tension...and the horrors...A fine study of a deadly obsession'.

- Geographical Magazine

I had to remind myself that this was history, not a thriller. I read till the unwise hours of the night, promising myself that I would just get to the end of the chapter, but then found myself beginning a new one.'

- Daily Mail, Best Books of 2015

‘Brilliantly evokes the danger and strangeness of high-altitude climbing... In this fascinating and poignant book, Conefrey ventures into a liminal zone: of dreams, controversies and unquiet ghosts.'

- Spectator

‘There is a haunting tone to the very name K2, this impossible mountain upon the flanks of which so many lives have been lost. In this wonderful book Mick Conefrey manages to turn the sound of tragedy into a celebration of hope, a triumph of the spirit.'

- Wade Davis, author of Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest

'A worthy successor to Everest 1953...scholarly yet accessible'.

- Footsteps on the Mountain

‘Conefrey is an exceptional writer… The Ghosts of K2 is an absolutely fantastic voyage into the heritage and the stories that live within it.'

- American Alpine Institute

'Downright thrilling; [Conefrey] really gives us a sense of what it must have been like, battling exhaustion and frigid temperatures to get to the top of the world...For fans of books about climbing, this one's a must-read'.

- Booklist

'Conefrey gives a compelling account of the first attempt to conquer 'Savage Mountain'...exploring both the practical side...and the people brave enough to attempt the climb'.

- History Revealed

Only unbridled ambition is going to get you up K2. And the stories of the early attempts and the eventual success illustrate the complexity of the mountain and the climbers who chose to risk it all. Ghosts of K2 brings them back to life.'

- Peter Edmund Hillary – mountaineer, expedition leader, philanthropist and author

K2, as I know from personal experience of climbing it, is a seriously dangerous mountain... This book engagingly portrays its grim, fascinating, tragic history.'

- Alan Hinkes OBE, mountaineer and author of 8000m: Climbing the World’s Highest Mountains

‘Calamity, chaos, catastrophe, controversy, calumny - the history of the most difficult and dangerous of high Himalayan peaks has all these in spades. Mick Conefrey relates the often unedifying, occasionally heroic saga leading to its first ascent with great panache and lucid analysis of little-known material. A significant contribution to mountaineering historical writing.'

- Jim Perrin – award-winning author of The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans and Snowdon: The Story of a Welsh Mountain

‘Makes the stakes clear and reveals the many rivalries and tensions that plagued even the best-equipped teams… Most of us will never experience K2. Conefrey leaves readers with both tremendous admiration for and an appreciation of the consequences for those who succeed in an adventure so physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing.'

- Kirkus Reviews

‘Excellent research and writing… Conefrey's succinct yet descriptive style allow him to weave a compelling narrative not just about the 1938-1939 American expeditions, but about the early expedition histories of K2 as a whole… an excellent read.'


A riveting read which kept me up till unwise hours of the night.'

- Ann Widdecombe

‘Mick Conefrey judiciously and lucidly unravels this tangled tale of courage and conflict. And he displays once again... a consummate ability to tell a ripping good climbing yarn.'

- Maurice Isserman – co-author of Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes

‘The new input Conefrey offers in [The Ghosts of K2] is difficult to ignore for any armchair mountaineer, let alone anyone objectively looking at the events on and after the K2 attempts.'

- Suburban Mountaineer

‘This exhilarating book traces the climbing history of K2, the world's second tallest peak at 28,251 feet, and offers a new twist to its controversial first ascent… An absorbing chronicle of K2's early history that all fans of mountaineering will enjoy.'

- Library Journal

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