No Way Down is an account of the 2008 disaster on K2, Earth’s second highest mountain. 11 people from international expeditions died, while several others were severely injured. The disaster was mainly caused by multiple serac falls and avalanches in an area near the top called the Bottleneck.
This is such a strange book because the events it describes are riveting, but the story does not flow, many instances are confusingly presented, there are a ton of holes in the narrative, and there is not even an attempt to unite the differing accounts of the interviewees into one cohesive story, or to even explain them not lining up. It feels rushed in some places, and long-winded in others. Sometimes the language and narrative veers too far into sensationalism, especially when it gets to the death of some of the climbers. Less is more, and to describe someone picking up the eyeball of one of his deceased fellow climbers is inexcusable, especially because it is so unlikely that this could have actually happened.
Another problem seems to be Bowley’s lack of knowledge when it comes to climbing in the Himalayas or climbing in general. I don’t believe that one needs to actually have been there to write a satisfying account, but he probably should have done more research on the subject he is writing about. It is probably unfair to compare every book that deals with such events to Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, but a lot can be learned from it. There is so much background information in Krakauer’s book, about climbing in the Himalayas in general, the economic interests involved, the adventure companies, the people attempting the ascent etc. All this paints a comprehensive picture of climbing Mount Everest at that moment in time that it effortlessly pulls readers in and enables them to draw their own conclusions.
Bowley, on the other hand, hardly offers any insights or opinions, nor really any analysis, which is even more disappointing on top of the choppy storytelling. I don’t want to give the book only one star because I was engrossed at times, but overall, this particular story should have provided a much more exciting reading experience.