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Savage Summit: The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2, the World's Most Feared Mountain

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Though not as tall as Everest, the "Savage Mountain" is far more dangerous. Located on the border of China and Pakistan, K2 has some of the harshest climbing conditions in the world. Ninety women have scaled Everest but of the six women who reached the summit of K2, three lost their lives on the way back down the mountain and two have since died on other climbs. In Savage S Though not as tall as Everest, the "Savage Mountain" is far more dangerous. Located on the border of China and Pakistan, K2 has some of the harshest climbing conditions in the world. Ninety women have scaled Everest but of the six women who reached the summit of K2, three lost their lives on the way back down the mountain and two have since died on other climbs. In Savage Summit, Jennifer Jordan shares the tragic, compelling, inspiring, and extraordinary true stories of a handful of courageous women -- mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, poets and engineers -- who defeated this formidable mountain yet ultimately perished in pursuit of their dreams.


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Though not as tall as Everest, the "Savage Mountain" is far more dangerous. Located on the border of China and Pakistan, K2 has some of the harshest climbing conditions in the world. Ninety women have scaled Everest but of the six women who reached the summit of K2, three lost their lives on the way back down the mountain and two have since died on other climbs. In Savage S Though not as tall as Everest, the "Savage Mountain" is far more dangerous. Located on the border of China and Pakistan, K2 has some of the harshest climbing conditions in the world. Ninety women have scaled Everest but of the six women who reached the summit of K2, three lost their lives on the way back down the mountain and two have since died on other climbs. In Savage Summit, Jennifer Jordan shares the tragic, compelling, inspiring, and extraordinary true stories of a handful of courageous women -- mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, poets and engineers -- who defeated this formidable mountain yet ultimately perished in pursuit of their dreams.

30 review for Savage Summit: The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2, the World's Most Feared Mountain

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anita Pomerantz

    I'm a little obsessed with reading about alpine mountain climbing in the sense that I have yet to read a book about it that I haven't found fascinating. This one was no exception, but I will say I was on the fence a bit about the writing itself. The book tells the detailed life stories of five women who reached the summit of K2, something only achieved by 18 women as late as 2014. All five perished while pursuing their dreams of climbing. Their backgrounds are fascinating . . .as you might imagin I'm a little obsessed with reading about alpine mountain climbing in the sense that I have yet to read a book about it that I haven't found fascinating. This one was no exception, but I will say I was on the fence a bit about the writing itself. The book tells the detailed life stories of five women who reached the summit of K2, something only achieved by 18 women as late as 2014. All five perished while pursuing their dreams of climbing. Their backgrounds are fascinating . . .as you might imagine, these women were not traditionalists and to some extent, they put their families second to their passion for the sport. The author creates essentially mini biographies of each woman from young childhood to death, and I found each of them fascinating to read. However, unlike my favorite Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, I didn't have the suspenseful feelings as if I were on the mountain with these women. The way she writes about mountain climbing itself seemed much more arms length. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but it made for a flatter read without as much emotional impact. Also, this book really focused on the gender issues with climbing, and even though there were many men who helped these women achieve their goals, somehow the book left you with the feeling that sexism was a tremendous barrier, and every man was in constant sexual pursuit. And maybe that's how it was, but for some reason it seemed as though aspects of the stories might have been exaggerated to make the themes of the book seem more important somehow. At any rate, I still would recommend it to those who enjoy books about risk takers, but not necessarily to those looking for say, a gripping survival tale.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah O'Toole

    It's kind of unfair reviewing this after reading Robert MacFarlane's superb "Mountains of the Mind" because it just came across as trashy journalism in comparison. I know this book was about the world's second-highest mountain and the women who have climbed it, but that's no excuse for its lacking depth. The premise of the book is amazing, but she doesn't really go anywhere with it and the feminist angle is some of the most simplistic man-bashing tripe I've ever read. Not that I'm against femini It's kind of unfair reviewing this after reading Robert MacFarlane's superb "Mountains of the Mind" because it just came across as trashy journalism in comparison. I know this book was about the world's second-highest mountain and the women who have climbed it, but that's no excuse for its lacking depth. The premise of the book is amazing, but she doesn't really go anywhere with it and the feminist angle is some of the most simplistic man-bashing tripe I've ever read. Not that I'm against feminism, and it does seem like some of these women encountered some serious assholes at high altitudes as well as behaving appallingly at times themselves also, but the conclusion of the book is very thin and I think in the hands of a finer, more subtle mind, an amazing book could have come out of this topic. The stories themselves are marvellous though, maybe slightly because of the sensationalist quality - a couple of times I actually got goosepimples reading - and some of the horror stories would definitely put you off high altitude mountaineering if you were ever mad enough to consider it in the first place. However, its great to read about these complex, intriguing women and their adventures on your cosy sofa!

  3. 5 out of 5

    CJ

    I have a weird affinity for mountain climbers. I love the idea of scaling a mountain and sort of understand why people do it (if I could only get over my fear of heights!). What I don't understand is why people continue to climb even after they've come off a mountain with frost bitten toes and fingers or some sort of high altitude sickness that requires they not climb - or the people with children waiting for them back home. I think I read mountain climbing books to try and figure out what makes I have a weird affinity for mountain climbers. I love the idea of scaling a mountain and sort of understand why people do it (if I could only get over my fear of heights!). What I don't understand is why people continue to climb even after they've come off a mountain with frost bitten toes and fingers or some sort of high altitude sickness that requires they not climb - or the people with children waiting for them back home. I think I read mountain climbing books to try and figure out what makes a person continue. I learned a lot about K2 and still wonder why anyone would climb it. It's in the middle of nowhere - it takes a week to walk into the mountain after the roads stop! It's beautiful, it's the second highest mountain in the world, and it seems to have some sort of weird hold on those who try to climb it. They keep returning, over and over, to get to the summit. One of the women featured in this book trekked to K2 on crutches! That's either completely crazy or ... well, it's just completely crazy. This book is hard to read, but well worth it. I don't know that I'm any closer to understanding these people, but I do like them a lot more after reading Jordan's book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aldi

    Loved the women's stories, especially Wanda Rutkiewicz - what a legacy. Hated the overblown style of the author, though, especially when she took it upon herself to put thoughts in people's heads and invariably chose the most trite, cringeworthy clichés imagineable. Also hated the way she constantly talked about these women's looks (starting with describing Fanny Bullock Workman as "a solid plug of a woman with a homely face" - WTF??), and not a single mention of any of them went by without some Loved the women's stories, especially Wanda Rutkiewicz - what a legacy. Hated the overblown style of the author, though, especially when she took it upon herself to put thoughts in people's heads and invariably chose the most trite, cringeworthy clichés imagineable. Also hated the way she constantly talked about these women's looks (starting with describing Fanny Bullock Workman as "a solid plug of a woman with a homely face" - WTF??), and not a single mention of any of them went by without some flowery description of "astonishing green eyes" and "mass of dark curls", or worse, cellulite and "fleshy" bodies. I don't know if she just meant to draw a more complete picture of each woman, but it came across as incredibly judgemental and utterly irrelevant. By contrast, she spends very little time describing their actual climbing achievements - the ascents (or attempts) are glossed over or summarized as not much more than "she went up, she came down (or died)." In summary, a worthy topic with fascinating characters, poorly executed. Wish I could rate it higher because I did enjoy the subject matter a lot, but the style made it a bit of a slog.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Well crafted account of the five women who cliimbed K2, the second highest mountain, between 1986 and 1995, all of whom died there or on another mountain at a later point. As women, they faced many special challenges in their climbing careers, mainly the gender bias reflecting the attitude of "No Girl's Allowed" in this masculine enterprise. Uplifting and satisfying read--as good as "Into Thin Air". The author Jennifer Jordan took six years to write the book, and that shows in the effort. Here i Well crafted account of the five women who cliimbed K2, the second highest mountain, between 1986 and 1995, all of whom died there or on another mountain at a later point. As women, they faced many special challenges in their climbing careers, mainly the gender bias reflecting the attitude of "No Girl's Allowed" in this masculine enterprise. Uplifting and satisfying read--as good as "Into Thin Air". The author Jennifer Jordan took six years to write the book, and that shows in the effort. Here is a great summary of her perspective: Most of us will not choose where we die. But climbers who enter their deadly arena know they are dancing on the razor's edge with every movement they make. They don't mind the risk; in fact, they embrace the risk as part of the price of such unbridled joy. ...Their choice to live and die in the mountains was one of passion, purpose, and talent, not idle arrogance or selfish whim. ...The women of K2 were mothers and daughters, woves and lovers, sisters and aunts, rivals and friends. Their deaths are losses for all of us, but the way they lived should be a lesson for us all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    DNF. There is a right way and a wrong way to write about women you've never met, and a sport you've never undertaken (reading 'Into thin air' doesn't count). Here's a hint, "long, shapely legs of a runway model, narrow hips and waist, and a full but not too full bosom" is not the way to do it. There are some good bits about the struggles female climbers have faced in following their climbing dreams, and the rampant sexism they experienced. But there is a way of describing the struggles and accom DNF. There is a right way and a wrong way to write about women you've never met, and a sport you've never undertaken (reading 'Into thin air' doesn't count). Here's a hint, "long, shapely legs of a runway model, narrow hips and waist, and a full but not too full bosom" is not the way to do it. There are some good bits about the struggles female climbers have faced in following their climbing dreams, and the rampant sexism they experienced. But there is a way of describing the struggles and accomplishments of these women without literally writing out thoughts that supposedly went through their minds. Perhaps the author wanted this to read more like a novel?? If so, I just think it missed the mark, reducing these women of apparently strong personality to one-dimensional supposition. In "Into the Wild" Jon Krakauer also reflects on a man he never met. At times he suggests thoughts that were going through this man's head. He then immediately follows this with proof from diary entries and interviews with people who knew the subject. He also compares the life of Chris McCandless to his own experiences and others, giving insight into what Chris might have been thinking without pretending that he knew exactly what was going on in his head. If the author actually did this, using interviews and diaries, I think it would have been stronger to say so throughout - reporting on the achievements and deaths of these women rather than turning them into a disjointed novel. Maybe that's your cup of tea, but it's not mine.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ann Gimpel

    This is an odd mountaineering book and I've read at least a hundred climbing sagas. Maybe more. Plus I climb myself. What is off-putting about this book is it's told in a disjointed fashion. A summit team is high on the mountain and the author launches into a thirty page digression about one of the climbers beginning with their childhood. By the time the author finally gets back to the climb, I've practically forgotten about it. In many ways, I suppose it's similar to the challenge of folding ba This is an odd mountaineering book and I've read at least a hundred climbing sagas. Maybe more. Plus I climb myself. What is off-putting about this book is it's told in a disjointed fashion. A summit team is high on the mountain and the author launches into a thirty page digression about one of the climbers beginning with their childhood. By the time the author finally gets back to the climb, I've practically forgotten about it. In many ways, I suppose it's similar to the challenge of folding backstory into fiction. You can do it seamlessly, or it can feel awkward and clunky. Also, I've read other stories about most of the women featured in this book that were far more thorough in terms of being sagas of their lives. I think the book was interesting conceptually, but the execution was lacking. As it sits, it's neither biography nor adventure writing, but a hybridization that gives short shrift to both. This is unfortunate since the author clearly loves the mountains and was trying to write a touching epitah for the women climbers of K2 who lost their lives in the Himalaya.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Fascinating and worth the read if you're into this topic, even though it has some flaws. Fascinating and worth the read if you're into this topic, even though it has some flaws.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amerynth

    While I was very excited to read about the women to climb K2, I just couldn't finish this book because I couldn't take any more of Jennifer Jordan's writing. I'm as feminist as the next girl, but her overarching theme that mountaineers are all sexist and offended by the very thought of women climbers is a bit much. For example, I've read several books about the 1975 American expedition of K2... and all agree the expedition was a disaster because of the strained relationships between all of the cl While I was very excited to read about the women to climb K2, I just couldn't finish this book because I couldn't take any more of Jennifer Jordan's writing. I'm as feminist as the next girl, but her overarching theme that mountaineers are all sexist and offended by the very thought of women climbers is a bit much. For example, I've read several books about the 1975 American expedition of K2... and all agree the expedition was a disaster because of the strained relationships between all of the climbers (all of whom wanted to be on the summit "A" team and refused to do any carrying for anything else if they were on the "B" team.) Was Dianne Roberts a point of contention on that expedition? Absolutely. Was she the reason is fell apart? Absolutely not... those climbers had problems with nearly everyone, including the men. They were angry because the expedition leader, Dianne's husband, was picking members of the "A" team and had family relationships with two crew members. And the 1978 expedition had problems with Cherie Bech not because she was female, but because she was having an affair with another climber while her husband was also on the expedition. While her husband was okay with this situation, the other climbers felt uncomfortable watching her share a tent with another man... wouldn't you be find this uncomfortable? It's telling that the men were also uncomfortable with the male expedition member involved in this whole situation too, not just Cherie. Jordan's zeal to point out every instance of possible sexism amongst climbers got so irritating, that I ended up putting the book aside early on. I would have enjoyed reading about these female climbers if the book was written by an author with less of an agenda.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

    An amazing read which is just beyond inspiring. Those that climb Everest and k2 are unbelievable but the women who do it are even more awe inspiring. I really recommend!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mihai

    This book had sat on my mountaineering to-read list for a while because by looking just at its title I thought it was simply another re-telling of the deadly history of K2. No matter how fascinating that history is, it can only be told in so many ways before it becomes repetitive. However, I then noticed the subtitle: The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2 - and instantly determined it would have to be my next read. It did not disappoint, in fact exceeding my expectations. In the This book had sat on my mountaineering to-read list for a while because by looking just at its title I thought it was simply another re-telling of the deadly history of K2. No matter how fascinating that history is, it can only be told in so many ways before it becomes repetitive. However, I then noticed the subtitle: The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2 - and instantly determined it would have to be my next read. It did not disappoint, in fact exceeding my expectations. In the sport of high-altitude alpinism, which has been dominated by competitive men with large egos, the accomplishments of women climbers have tended to be at best downplayed and at worst demeaned or outright rejected. Therefore, author Jennifer Jordan's personal quest to raise awareness of the five women who succeeded in reaching the summit of the second highest mountain in the world was an inspiration in of itself. The portraits she assembled of these five striking personalities, all of whom perished before they could use their own words to describe their experiences to any adequate length, are compelling and vivid. The book is well researched, written (I could barely put it down), and, perhaps most importantly, the author put in a great deal of effort to get in touch with the climbers' families, friends and former teammates in order to piece together an understanding of their characters from those who knew them best. Some of these interactions were extremely emotional many years after the death of the subject, thus guaranteeing the precious authenticity that outside biographers always struggle with, and which is the key to making these narratives into human interest stories. Though I was familiar with the names of the protagonists and had learned of their most significant achievements from other sources, going beyond official biographies into their personal journeys as described in Savage Summit was utterly captivating. With the status of K2 sumiteer as their only common link, the two Britons, two French and one of the greatest Polish climbers, men or women, were all pioneers of the sport, fighting their way to the top via remarkably different circumstances and motivations. They did so by being controversial, contradictory or simply refusing to take no for an answer. Their technical and physical prowess was contrasted by deep character flaws in some cases, as well as incredible resiliency when faced with lack of support, discrimination, pressure from sponsors and media, and, most devastatingly, the need to prove themselves over and over. Fate brought the first three women, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Lilliane Barrard and Julie Tullis together on the mountain in what would become the Black Summer of 1986, when a total of 13 climbers died on K2. Though all three reached the summit, only Rutkiewicz survived the descent. Looking back more than 30 years, it is easy to ascribe Barrard and Tullis's deaths to the fact they were neither strong nor experienced enough to get themselves down; both women were dependent on their male partners for strategy and assistance, so when the men were overwhelmed by the conditions, they perished together (with the exception of legendary Kurt Diemberger, a repeat survivor of tragedies). Rutkiewicz was able to get off the mountain alive because her highly competitive personality, as well as tremendous strength and considerable experience, made her essentially self-reliant. Chantal Mauduit and Alison Hargreaves were at the forefront of the next generation of women climbers, who took over in the 1990s. They were essentially free spirits who used high-altitude mountaineering to escape the confines of non-descript lives in their respective countries, and later the unrelenting pressure of careers as professional climbers. Ironically, the same ability to tune out the cacophony of the world around them eventually contributed to them missing critical details in later climbs, which proved lethal in the 8000er arena with its infinitesimal margin for error. Savage Summit does an excellent job in conveying all of the above through compelling writing and good structure. I have some quibbles about the section where the author attempts to get into the mind of character and tries to formulate what the person would have most likely said at the time, but overall the book is outstanding. Highly recommended read for all mountaineers, active and armchair alike.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Just finished reading Savage Summit by Jennifer Jordan last night. I really enjoyed the book. One of the best written climbing/mountaineering books I have read so far. It is also the first of this genre I have read that was not autobiographical, so not sure if that has anything to do with it. Anyway, the book is somewhat of a women's history of climbing K2, the second highest peak in the world. K2 may not be as high as everest, but it is certainly more dangerous. At the time this book went to pr Just finished reading Savage Summit by Jennifer Jordan last night. I really enjoyed the book. One of the best written climbing/mountaineering books I have read so far. It is also the first of this genre I have read that was not autobiographical, so not sure if that has anything to do with it. Anyway, the book is somewhat of a women's history of climbing K2, the second highest peak in the world. K2 may not be as high as everest, but it is certainly more dangerous. At the time this book went to press, only six women in the world had successfully summited K2, three of these died on their descent of the mountain, and two of the remaining three have since died climbing other mountains. At this time, there is only one woman to have climbed K2 who is still alive. This book explores challenges of climbing this mountain, specifically challenges women have faced that make their experience wholly different from those of the men who have climbed it. At times, Jordan does come across as a man-bashing feminist, as one would expect in a book of this nature. However, she may be completely right that in the world of high-altitude mountaineering, it may still be very much a man's world. What Jordan does best with this book, is giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of the women she is writing about. We get to know these women as well as we can, most of whom are very private individuals. As a reader, you really feel as though you are climbing with Wanda Rutkiewicz or Chantal Mauduit, or Allison Hargreaves, or any of the others. You know their history and background, what they are climbing for and why they climb, and what they have to lose. Jordan makes you really feel a sadness when each of these women meet their ultimate demise. Additionally, Jordan is a gifted writer and often uses wonderful imagery to portray the climbing world and the women in it. Here's a great passage: " By midmorning the sky was streaked with the first signs of a storm... If noticed, the warning went unheeded by the ragged group, tiny ants inching inexorably up the final slopes toward the summit. At this altitude every step was measured against a lead weight across the shoulders and filling the boots.... Titanium ice axes that weighed less than a pound felt like a caveman's club." This book was given to me by a coworker at Christmas and I finally got around to reading it. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in climbing, or even women's history. If you want to read about some strong women and feel inspired, this is a book for you. Or simply if you like reading about climbing :)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erika Nerdypants

    Incredible read, I just finished and I'm not sure I can write a review without letting this book settle, but I also want to try and capture the emotions it evoked in me. First off, I don't entirely understand my fascination with books about mountaineering, but I suspect the fact that my father loved climbing in the Austrian and Swiss Alps as a young man has something to do with it. I never had much interest in the subject while he was alive, but now I wish I had listened to his stories and asked Incredible read, I just finished and I'm not sure I can write a review without letting this book settle, but I also want to try and capture the emotions it evoked in me. First off, I don't entirely understand my fascination with books about mountaineering, but I suspect the fact that my father loved climbing in the Austrian and Swiss Alps as a young man has something to do with it. I never had much interest in the subject while he was alive, but now I wish I had listened to his stories and asked more questions. This book deals with the 5 female climbers who have reached the summit of K2, only to lose their lives on descent or other tragic climbing accidents. The subject is fascinating, and the writing superb. The author makes the women and supporting climbers come alive, there were many moments where I was holding my breath for them, even though I already knew the outcome. I was particularly impressed with her ability to not only show the women in glowing terms, their fierce determination, intense passion and commitment, but also their egotism, competitiveness, and sometimes blatant narcissism, which seems a common trait among many climbers. This made the characters multi-dimensional, and allows the reader to come away feeling we have truly gotten to know them, and of course care for them. Since the book was written additional female climbers have reached the summit of K2, but the mountain has claimed many more victims. I have another book on K2 waiting on my to be read shelves, but I think I may take a short break to fully digest this excellent book before diving in again.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Porter

    It took her many years to finish this book, and I believe it shows in her writing and in the details she uncovered about each woman. Being a solo woman traveler and adventurer myself, I often found myself relating to these woman. Jennifer does an excellent job of perceiving the difficulty woman face when entering a man's sport. When woman are better than men physically at something, men often try to excuse their success (they were lucky, they didn't do x or y- what a true man would do). The wome It took her many years to finish this book, and I believe it shows in her writing and in the details she uncovered about each woman. Being a solo woman traveler and adventurer myself, I often found myself relating to these woman. Jennifer does an excellent job of perceiving the difficulty woman face when entering a man's sport. When woman are better than men physically at something, men often try to excuse their success (they were lucky, they didn't do x or y- what a true man would do). The women in this book are often better than men all around- strength, technical skill, acclimatization, endurance, and more, yet some (not all) men excuse these advantages at every opportunity. I like that she also discusses the women's weakness in the book. Women are still just getting into this sport of big mountain climbing. Some, are probably too eager for their own good, but I think they are trying to prove what women can do, even if it kills them. Sure, if women had the luxury of taking their time and then hitting the big stuff, that would be lovely, but back then, women needed to prove their skill in a big way to get respected. I like to think that now those women have shown what women can do on big mountains, women are taking their time and developing their experience in the proper time span. I believe Jennifer does an excellent job of bringing up topics that can ignite thought or discussion on important matters.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Boyette

    Apparently I am now some kind of connoisseur of mountaineering books? After reading 4 of them in 3 days I am hopeful this obsession burns itself out soon. I was disappointed. I wanted to like it, but it tried too hard. Instead, I found it overly dramatic and overly romanticized. Considering how dramatic the subject is already it just seemed too much. There was also an undeniable undercurrent of bitterness that flowed through the book which put me off. It wasn't without merit, however. The women Apparently I am now some kind of connoisseur of mountaineering books? After reading 4 of them in 3 days I am hopeful this obsession burns itself out soon. I was disappointed. I wanted to like it, but it tried too hard. Instead, I found it overly dramatic and overly romanticized. Considering how dramatic the subject is already it just seemed too much. There was also an undeniable undercurrent of bitterness that flowed through the book which put me off. It wasn't without merit, however. The women were complicated, strong climbers and deserved to have their stories told. When the author focused on that and the harrowing climbs they took on, the book was stronger and more enjoyable. I just wish there had been more of that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lukasz Pruski

    "By midnight Mrowka had not arrived. [...] The Little Ant, who had been strongest of the miserable cluster at Camp IV, digging out others' tents, bringing tea while there was still gas, getting Diemberger his boots, had finally worn herself out. The Black Summer [...] had claimed its last victim." "Mrowka" (an ant, in Polish) is an affectionate pseudonym of Dobrosława Miodowicz-Wolf, a Polish climber, who perished on K2 (the "Savage Mountain") in the summer of 1986. Dobrosława had also been a fri "By midnight Mrowka had not arrived. [...] The Little Ant, who had been strongest of the miserable cluster at Camp IV, digging out others' tents, bringing tea while there was still gas, getting Diemberger his boots, had finally worn herself out. The Black Summer [...] had claimed its last victim." "Mrowka" (an ant, in Polish) is an affectionate pseudonym of Dobrosława Miodowicz-Wolf, a Polish climber, who perished on K2 (the "Savage Mountain") in the summer of 1986. Dobrosława had also been a friend of my wife and myself and I used to work with her husband, Jan Wolf (who also died in the mountains several years later), in a research institute in Warsaw. This review is written in memory of Dobrosława but her climbing story is not one of the main stories is Jennifer Jordan's Savage Summit (2005). Ms. Jordan writes: "I aim simply to share with you the stories of five remarkable women who chose to live at the edge of death and all of whom ultimately died there." The five women are: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Liliane Barrard, Julie Tullis, Chantal Mauduit, and Alison Hargreaves. Of these five Wanda Rutkiewicz is featured most prominently. She is called a "climbing legend" and "the best female climber the world has ever seen," a woman with "enormous and stubborn personality," and also very isolated and lonely because of her intense drive to climb. I happen to know another Polish woman climber, not as famous, who knew Wanda Rutkiewicz personally and even did one or two routes with her. Everything I heard from my friend about Ms. Rutkiewicz jibes with the general tone of the story told in the book. One detail is wrong, though: the author claims that Ms. Rutkiewicz graduated from the Warsaw Polytechnic (which is my alma mater). That 's not true - she graduated from the Wroclaw Polytechnic. Probably the editor's fault. There are a lot of interesting sociological observations in the book, both on the macro-scale - for example, about the cultural resistance to accept women in roles non-traditional for them - and in micro-scale, like personal inter-relationships in climbing teams. Probably the most interesting thread is the one that focuses on differences in climbing teams dynamics depending on the gender of the members. I find the following passage quite amusing: "While the first two times women were included on K2 expeditions were wrought with internecine battles, ego wars, and sexual tensions, the next one would be exempt from most of those conflicts because of one simple omission: men." And a truly hilarious diagnosis of what the standard topics of conversations among male climbers are: "what goes in, what goes out, and what goes in and out." The fun made of men is perhaps balanced by somewhat excessive attention to sexual aspects of high-altitude climbing, when the author writes about Chantal Mauduit. Three-and-a-half stars. In memory of Dobrosława Wolf.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura Kemp

    I’m so weirdly obsessed with this very specific literally niche. Reading about these women is both inspiring and shocking.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Molly Jackson

    I would have rated the book higher but I felt the writer lost her journalistic obligation to impartiality. I think she got too close to the women she wrote about to remain neutral in telling their stories. Which I get and could handle here and there. But it really bothered me that throughout the whole book she rails against how judgmental the world was/is of these 5 women and female climbers in general, but at the end of the book she judges the shit out of several women currently trying to beat I would have rated the book higher but I felt the writer lost her journalistic obligation to impartiality. I think she got too close to the women she wrote about to remain neutral in telling their stories. Which I get and could handle here and there. But it really bothered me that throughout the whole book she rails against how judgmental the world was/is of these 5 women and female climbers in general, but at the end of the book she judges the shit out of several women currently trying to beat and set high alpine records. Makes no sense. I thoroughly enjoyed the factual content of the book though and think it well worth the read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karen Beath

    Savage Summit by karenlb Savage Summit by Jennifer Jordan documents the lives of the women who have summited K2 - the second highest mountain. At the time of writing, 6 women had summited K2 - three of which lost their lives on the descent. In fact, the mortality rate for women attempting to climb K2 is far higher than other mountains. So, apparently, K2 doesn't like women, or at least that's one of the superstitions carried through the mountaineering world. Being a lover of trekking and mountain c Savage Summit by karenlb Savage Summit by Jennifer Jordan documents the lives of the women who have summited K2 - the second highest mountain. At the time of writing, 6 women had summited K2 - three of which lost their lives on the descent. In fact, the mortality rate for women attempting to climb K2 is far higher than other mountains. So, apparently, K2 doesn't like women, or at least that's one of the superstitions carried through the mountaineering world. Being a lover of trekking and mountain climbing, this book had me enthralled. It was fascinating to hear the stories of the women and their climbing achievements. It was also interesting to read about their struggles in what was traditionally a man's world and the ways they overcame these struggles such as forming their own all-women climbing team, or using their femininity to achieve climbing permits or assistance. These women were also treated very differently by the media and society with the mothers of the group often criticised for the not staying home with their children (the fathers, however, suffered no such criticism). In saying all this, Jordan does not hold back when it comes to revealing the women's characters and motivations. While they were no doubt inspirational, they could also be selfish, mean, at times unwilling to carry their own gear and I found one of the women was almost completely unlikeable. In other words, they were human and I think this added to the book's appeal. Jordan also touches on a theme common to the mountaineering world - the competitive nature of mountain climbing or, who can summit the most peaks. It was this nature that has led to the deaths of so many mountaineers. One of my only objections to this book was Jordan's original motivation for writing it. She had read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air and felt that he was overly harsh towards one of the women in the book. Having read that book, I strongly disagree. While he was critical of this particular woman, he was also critical of a number of male mountaineers. I don't think he had sexist intentions in this regard. This is, of course, purely my opinion, however it did make me question Jordan's objectivity throughout the book. In saying that, I still highly recommend this read especially to those with an interest in mountaineering or adventure travel.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Beth666ann

    This is an interesting companion to the book (Coffey) I just read about spouses/lovers of mountaineers paying the price when the climbers die. Jordan gives capsule biographies of the five women mountaineers to have successfully summited K2: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Liliane Barrard, Julie Tullis, Alison Hargreaves [edit: to fix spelling of AH], and Chantal Mauduit. These women were varied, interesting, and flawed, and the author does a good job of covering the fullness of their biographies, positive and This is an interesting companion to the book (Coffey) I just read about spouses/lovers of mountaineers paying the price when the climbers die. Jordan gives capsule biographies of the five women mountaineers to have successfully summited K2: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Liliane Barrard, Julie Tullis, Alison Hargreaves [edit: to fix spelling of AH], and Chantal Mauduit. These women were varied, interesting, and flawed, and the author does a good job of covering the fullness of their biographies, positive and negative parts both, without sinking into stereotype. She also defends them on their choices to climb and live as they did. One great point the book makes is that women climbers have a hard time getting rightful respect for their accomplishments, and Jordan does a nice job of explaining the unique difficultites female mountaineers face(d), from outright resistance and misogyny in the 1970s to the a somewhat lesser version of such resistance that has existed ever since. (Things have to have improved, but I'm not sure how much, really, since women still seem to be accused of creating "tension" on climbs.) At the time it was written, all five of the women to have summited K2 had died (though not all died on that mountain, they did all die while climbing), though an additional woman had summitted as the book went to press in 2005. Hope that person is still alive. I am sure more have made it to the top of K2, and died, by now. Perhaps the author is a little too rah-rah about the honor of dying on a mountain, and "not quitting," but she offers a pretty good explanation for these women's motivations and does not judge them, which is refreshing. Anyway, I liked reading this and hearing about great female climbers.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nigel

    I am a lover of non-fiction books on the great outdoors and climbing biographies and autobiographies in particular. The premise here is "why are the vast majority of mountaineering books about men and frequently by men?" The author sets out to look at 5 iconic female mountaineers through the lens of their lives and particularly their ascents of K2. I found the book well written and very interesting. Bear in mind that the explicit aim of the book is to look at issues that female mountaineers have I am a lover of non-fiction books on the great outdoors and climbing biographies and autobiographies in particular. The premise here is "why are the vast majority of mountaineering books about men and frequently by men?" The author sets out to look at 5 iconic female mountaineers through the lens of their lives and particularly their ascents of K2. I found the book well written and very interesting. Bear in mind that the explicit aim of the book is to look at issues that female mountaineers have with their male counterparts and vice versa so this is a running theme through the book. It certainly shines some light into the problems and indicted valid concerns on both sides. I did find that the author didn't hesitate in pointing out criticisms of the female mountaineers. I'd read a couple of autobiographical works by the women and this book will ensure I read more both on K2 and the people involved. A good book for anyone with an interest in the subject.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McPhedran

    This is a story about the most dangerous mountain in the world. The distinction does not apply to the tallest mountain in the world, Everest. It applies to the second tallest mountain K2. More people have died on K2 than Everest. Jennifer Jordan has written a book about the first five women to have climbed K2. Spoiler alert. Most of them have died. I felt like the writing was ok, not the best. But it is obvious the author feels very strongly about her subject matter. Nothing will dispute the she This is a story about the most dangerous mountain in the world. The distinction does not apply to the tallest mountain in the world, Everest. It applies to the second tallest mountain K2. More people have died on K2 than Everest. Jennifer Jordan has written a book about the first five women to have climbed K2. Spoiler alert. Most of them have died. I felt like the writing was ok, not the best. But it is obvious the author feels very strongly about her subject matter. Nothing will dispute the sheer will and strength of these women. They were amazing climbers, and deserve the distinction of being mountaineers. A good read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Valia

    Fascinating stories joined into a single narrative by their topic, that of many ways of death in high-altitude alpinism. Those who stay alive usually have to content themselves with mutilation and good old suffering. Fascinating.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marcin Bajer

    Very rarely I abandon reading of any book, but one-third into this one I feel it is a complete waste of time. After reading my share of mouintaineering books I can't stand this collection of gossip with an feminist angle. Very rarely I abandon reading of any book, but one-third into this one I feel it is a complete waste of time. After reading my share of mouintaineering books I can't stand this collection of gossip with an feminist angle.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marsmannix

    Story of the first five women to summit K-2 and their tragic ends.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peter McGinn

    I read a lot of books on mountaineering, including Jennifer Jordan's other book on the topic, "Last Man on the Mountain." I liked that book and it led me to this one. Most books on the subject seem to follow a particular climb, or - if the author is a climber - all of his/her accomplishments. In this book, however, Jordan searched around for a topic and was drawn into the history of women climbing K2, the world's second highest mountain and arguably the most dangerous one. This book doesn't just d I read a lot of books on mountaineering, including Jennifer Jordan's other book on the topic, "Last Man on the Mountain." I liked that book and it led me to this one. Most books on the subject seem to follow a particular climb, or - if the author is a climber - all of his/her accomplishments. In this book, however, Jordan searched around for a topic and was drawn into the history of women climbing K2, the world's second highest mountain and arguably the most dangerous one. This book doesn't just describe their K2 climbs, though, but rather it presents biographies of the women: how they became interested and indeed, to varying degrees, obsessed with climbing, and follows their careers. In the process the book also explores how women climbers are looked at differently by the press and by male climbers. It turns out that the double standard is just as prevalent at high altitudes as it is elsewhere. Men may leave their families for months at a time, and they are heroes. But if women join an expedition, they are criticized for being bad mothers. Men can be aggressive and egotistical and be thought of as assertive, great climbers; women with the same attributes are pushy bitches. Nothing surprising there. As other reviewers here have noted, Jordan goes out of her way to be fair and on the women's side in the book, but why not, if only to offset the mass of unfair, bad press they received during and after their careers? At the same time, Jordan doesn't shy away from presenting the women "warts and all," as the saying goes. We see their less than shining moments, such as a couple of them using their attractive bodies and even flirting to level the playing field, alongside their glorious achievements. Who knows what we would read if books describing male climbers were just as unflinching and honest? In reading about mountaineering, especially the Himalayan and the more dangerous Alpine peaks (Matterhorn, Eiger), you come to expect deaths to occur, but in reading about a small group of climbers - the women - it really came home to me how many climbers die, regardless of their skill level. It is a numbers game in a way: They are struggling where one small mistake when the brain is fuzzier at high altitude can be fatal, or even something beyond their control, such as an avalanche can take place. And as they climb again and again, they lose many of their their friends and peers, but they reason that it won't happen to them if they are careful. But as the title gives it away, it does happen to these women. Now I will eagerly wait for Jennifer Jordan's next book on mountaineering.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Nutting

    When asked by a reporter why he wanted to climb Mt Everest, George Mallory replied “because it’s there!” I guess that explains the obsession these five women had with “standing at the top of the world.” Wanda, arrogant, bossy and rude, Liliane, the perfect partner, following her man, Julie, who traded family to follow the call of the wild, Chantal, the femme fatale of the climbing set and Alison, a teenager who knew what her goal was. Sound like a reality show? No, these are the characters that m When asked by a reporter why he wanted to climb Mt Everest, George Mallory replied “because it’s there!” I guess that explains the obsession these five women had with “standing at the top of the world.” Wanda, arrogant, bossy and rude, Liliane, the perfect partner, following her man, Julie, who traded family to follow the call of the wild, Chantal, the femme fatale of the climbing set and Alison, a teenager who knew what her goal was. Sound like a reality show? No, these are the characters that make up this true life drama. Truth is better than fiction. A very well written and researched account of many arduous trips “into thin air.” My take on all these tragedies is that the climbers caused their own demise. Was it their obsession to reach the summit or a death wish that urged them to try to achieve the almost impossible. They ignored all the visible signs of disaster. Don’t fool with Mother Nature, she always wins. I Googled every person/place mentioned in the book for further information and watched YouTube videos of the climbs. Now I’m obsessed with learning more. I’m amazed I have never heard of any of these outstanding mountaineers/alpinists except for Edmund Hillary - I feel like I must have been living under a rock. LOL My usual side note - I’m reading this during a cold front that has hit Florida, it is 73 degrees and I’m freezing - guess I’d have a problem on Mt Everest!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cinthia Ritchie

    This is a difficult book to review. On one hand, Jordan's research is pretty damned impressive, and the fact that someone finally, finally spotlighted and delved inside the lives of women climbers is more than noteworthy--it's priceless. And for the most part, the book reads well, though there are places where it stutters, sometimes jarringly so. Yet, following along with these women climbers as they scaled Everest, K2 and other peaks is both exciting and bittersweet. So many died, not just the This is a difficult book to review. On one hand, Jordan's research is pretty damned impressive, and the fact that someone finally, finally spotlighted and delved inside the lives of women climbers is more than noteworthy--it's priceless. And for the most part, the book reads well, though there are places where it stutters, sometimes jarringly so. Yet, following along with these women climbers as they scaled Everest, K2 and other peaks is both exciting and bittersweet. So many died, not just the women but other climbers, guides and porters. What I didn't like and what I don't think was necessary is the author's assumptions (in italics) as to what the women were thinking/saying because, face it, we don't know and never will know what they were thinking or what was actually said. I skimmed most of these sections, for I feel they diminished the book's authority. I also didn't care much for the ending assumption about Wanda, if she did indeed pull herself out of the partial snowcave and attempt the summit. It's all speculation, and it subtracts from the integrity of both the subject and the book. That said, I highly recommend "Savage Summit." It's refreshing to read about the women who paved the way for today's climbers, and to be reminded, once again, of the crap women had and still have to fight against inside the male-dominated sports world.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brigitte

    This is a really good read about the first five women to summit K2. I especially liked all the details about high altitude mountaineering that were included. For example, I did not realize until reading this that women acclimate better than men, and that little research has been done on women at altitude (though I hope that has changed, as this book is from 2005). I also liked the descriptions of the treks to get to both Everest (easy, close to civilization) and K2 (hard, nothing like civilizati This is a really good read about the first five women to summit K2. I especially liked all the details about high altitude mountaineering that were included. For example, I did not realize until reading this that women acclimate better than men, and that little research has been done on women at altitude (though I hope that has changed, as this book is from 2005). I also liked the descriptions of the treks to get to both Everest (easy, close to civilization) and K2 (hard, nothing like civilization around). The people who live around Everest have been dealing with tourism longer and are better at handling the crush of people and their waste, while the few who live on the path to K2 don't have as much experience so the pollution is a lot worse. This book makes clear just how bad reasoning skills can be at 8,000 meters, and helps explain even why experienced mountaineers with many successful summits can succumb to the problems high on the mountain by making bad decisions.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sue Jackson

    I enjoyed reading Savage Summit about the first five women who climbed K2. Not only did Jennifer Jordan talk about the climbing strengths of each woman, she also touched on their personal lives. Sometimes a mountain climber gets lumped into the same bucket but in this case they all seemed to have different personalities and different situations in their home lives. It added a personal touch. I especially liked the fact that she touched based with a family member for each woman as she was writing I enjoyed reading Savage Summit about the first five women who climbed K2. Not only did Jennifer Jordan talk about the climbing strengths of each woman, she also touched on their personal lives. Sometimes a mountain climber gets lumped into the same bucket but in this case they all seemed to have different personalities and different situations in their home lives. It added a personal touch. I especially liked the fact that she touched based with a family member for each woman as she was writing this book. As far as climbing is concerned, this book didn't say anything new. Everyone already should have know that woman were are still are treated unfairly/differntly than male climbers. Some of the comments about that inequality often seemed like the author's opinion rather than based in fact. Still I enjoyed reading this book and it is an easy read. She did a good job of highlighting each woman climber and making each one real.

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