Savage Summit: the true stories of the first five women who climbed K2, the world’s most feared mountain

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  Jennifer Jordan
Savage Summit: the true stories of the first five women who climbed K2, the world’s most feared mountain
This is a well-written group biography of the women who climbed the world’s second tallest mountain: Wanda Rutkiewicz (a Pole); Liliane Barrard and Chantal Mauduit (both of France); and Julie Tullis and Alison Hargreaves (both British). This book covers the climbers’ early lives as well as the years 1986 to 1995 which encompasses the summits.

The women climbers faced sexism, infighting, abandonment by fellow climbers, sabotage of their encampments, etc.. Hargreaves got flak for being a mother and risking her life climbing. Mauduit is accused of using her sex appeal to get men to prepare the ascent w/ fixed lines, and that porters (or sherpas) did most of the work and heavy lifting. Some even accused her of not summiting, if she could not produce photographic evidence. Barrard was accused of being passive and dependent on her husband, Maurice. Similar criticism was aimed at Tullis and her male climbing partner. Rutkiewicz suffered the accusations of not summiting the mountains she really did summit as well as fellow climbers abandoning her on the mountain. She had to become a climbing “free agent” of sorts, because her strong and opinionated personality alienated many.

This is a very suspenseful account that rivals Jon Krakauer’s classic “Into thin air”. The author’s research included interviewing scores of acquaintances, family members and friends of the women. My problem with the book is that Ms. Jordan attributed thoughts and feelings to the subjects, which she couldn’t possibly know, no matter how much research she conducted.

A glossary of climbing terms and a timeline would have been helpful.