Footsteps on the Mountain travel diaries
Thieves, Liars and Mountaineers
On the 8000 metre peak circus in Pakistan's Karakoram mountains. June/July/August 2009.
By Mark Horrell
This is the tale of my not-so-nearly ascent of Gasherbrum in Pakistan; of how one man's boredom and frustration is conquered by a gutsy combination of exhaustion, cowardice, and sheer mountaineering incompetence.
Not one, not two, but three intrepid assaults were made on the summits, some of which got quite a distance beyond base camp, and many perilous circumstances were overcome along the way. Joe Simpson may have crawled for five days with a broken leg, but did he ever have to read "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown while waiting for a weather window? I think you know what I'm saying.
But that's enough about my attempt; there were some talented climbers on the mountain as well, and this story is also about them. How did they get on? Heroes, villains, oddballs and nutters - 8000 metre peaks attract them all, and drama, intrigue and cock-ups aplenty were inevitable. And would I do it again, given the chance? You bet I would. Read on to find out why ...
(The below is a personal account of my adventure. For an official account of how the expedition got on, you can read Altitude Junkies' Gasherbrum expedition dispatches).
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Praise from readers
"I could not recommend this enough. I will be reading all of the stories as they are great fun."
"I really really enjoyed this book. It is so candid and it feels like the author knows me! I have now read more of his books and love the British, stuff upper lip, irreverant attitude."
"I enjoyed this book. It's funny, and while reading it feels like you are right there with the author. A great read and a great value."
"I love the humor that he has put into this book and the description of the climbing is excellent, makes me feel like I am there. I highly recommend this book if you are an armchair mountain climber like me."
"As an armchair mountaineer I found this book truly engrossing. In fact I gave it 5 stars because I just didn't want it to end."
"Gentle joking and engaging vignettes ... it's a good read - and the photos are great!"
"This book provides a view of guided expedition mountaineering that is at once subtle and unexpected."
"Rarely would I encourage anyone to publish their diaries. Mr. Horrell is a notable exception."
"Very interesting and enjoyable read, I don't read a lot of books but could not put it down. I found it very easy to read, straight to the point. I would recommend this book to anyone."
"Excellent insight as usual from Mark into commercial climbing. Breathtaking, fascinating, insightful and honest. He has a fantastic attitude towards his climbing, the most important point being, it's not getting to the top, it's living to try it again, and enjoying the amazing privilege of being able to do it in the first place. Bravo."
"This book is different from the accounts of great climbs written by famous mountaineers ... I enjoyed reading it because of the change of viewpoint."
"Horrell's book really reaches into the heart of some the mental and physical concerns one goes through on a big mountain expedition. He conveys to the reader a good feel for the difficulties and the exhilaration one experiences living and climbing at altitude."
"Horrell is a very descriptive, self-deprecating, witty writer ... The prose is breezy and light and the story moves along briskly. Highly recommended."
"Really well done. I've got to pay attention on the train or I'll miss my stop when I'm reading this. I especially appreciate his daily reporting of life on a mountain trek, without all the tiresome lyrical philosophyzing ... This guy gets it."
"Good account of the trials of high altitude mountaineering. Would recommend it to anyone with an interest in 8000 metre peaks."
"Dry wit and sharp observation made this an excellent read. Lovely descriptions of the mountains. Looking forward to the next one."
"Wonderful descriptions of the mountain and its power. Snow and ice never sounded so good and the people came out sounding like my neighbours."
"This book is for anyone who appreciates that the prize just may be in the attempt, after all, and for anyone who hopes that humor and humility still have a seat at the table."
"I came across Mark Horrell and I am now addicted. He writes well, is humble and honest. Love the style, keep writing."
"Another cracking book from Mark at a great price."
"A genuinely interesting read that shows both the trivial side of mountaineering and the serious side."
"His descriptions of the locales, culture, and people are as interesting as those of the actual climbing ... He also has a great sense of humor .. He has reverence for mountains and nature, but has a refreshingly humble, down to earth and humorous regard for his and our place in it."
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