The Last Step: The American Ascent of K2

Ridgeway, Rick
Year Published: 

"The personal story of the 1978 American team who, following five failed attempts by previous American teams, gained the summit of K2, the second highest and most difficult mountain in the world.

In September 1978, Rick Ridgeway, Jim Wickwire, Lou Reichardt and John Roskelley stood atop K2, the first Americans ever to achieve that victory. Under the leadership of Jim Whittaker, they and their teammates had spent 67 days on the mountain, nearly all of them above 18,000 feet, where the stresses of high-altitude living, of monotonous food, of confinement in tiny tents for day after day of frustrating storms had worn them down to the core.

The Last Step is Rick Ridgeway's inside story of this extraordinary expedition. It's about the people who, battered by the mountain and their isolation, overcame their individual fears, desires, and disappointments to work together to get somebody - anybody - to the top of K2. It's about the glorious success the team achieved, and about the perilous bivouac Jim Wickwire spent just below the summit without food, oxygen, or shelter in temperatures of -40 degrees.

In spite of all the fighting and split factions, this expedition was able to successfully place 4 men on the summit of K2 in 1978. Ridgeway is a compelling writer, who is able to retain reader interest and develop his characters well. He effectively gave me insight into the different personalities of the climbers. It was interesting to read about all the dissentions and miscommunications, plus get the exciting climbing experiences of the two separate summit parties. Ridgeway's description of his summit day experience made me feel like I was actually there feeling the bitter cold, and trying to suck down enough oxygen to breathe. I doubt there would have been a successful summit ascent if the 4 who made the summit hadn't been their persistent, focused selves.

I have decided that any moutaineering story that includes climber John Roskelley will undoubtedly have some sort of controversy, as he likes to air his opinions, telling it like it is. He wrote ""Nanda Devi,"" which is another interesting mountaineering adventure that includes drama and controversy as well. I recommend it in addition to ""The Last Step.""

I have started to read Cherie Bremer-Kamp's (known to the '78 K2 American expedition as Cherie Bech) book, ""Living on the Edge"" to try to understand her character and motivations a little better. She was one of the controversial members of the '78 expedition. Even after reading her perspective of the K2 expedition and her relationship with Chris Chandler, I still can't help but wonder at the insensitivity and disrespect she showed to her husband (and the father of her two children) who was climbing on the same expedition! Especially after the vehement denials on her part! There are always two sides to a story, I guess.

Read this book, you won't be disappointed. It's got it all, drama and climbing adventure."

4.5 of 5

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