Reaching For The Top Of The World
In the annals of high-altitude mountain climbing, Mt. Everest stands as the pinnacle most mountaineers want to reach. But K2, the second highest and known as the Savage Mountain, is arguably a more worthy adversary.
While I’m not a climber myself, I’ve long been fascinated by those hardy souls who are compelled to spend weeks in remote locales under the most miserable conditions. As I began to develop my Pathway series—stories that combine extreme adventure, exotic locations, and steamy romance—there was no doubt that I would include a book featuring men and women attempting to scale an 8000-meter peak.
There are fourteen mountains that stand above 8000 meters (see below for the complete list) and many climbers have sought to join the Fourteeners Club by summiting each one. There are currently only two women in this club: Edurne Pasabán from Spain and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner from Austria. Pasabán was the first (in 2004) but only climbed 13 out of 14 without supplemental oxygen, a feat very few climbers have accomplished. (The summits of these mountains are at the same altitude at which commercial airlines fly.) Kaltenbrunner completed her quest of climbing all 14 peaks without supplemental oxygen in 2011.
K2 is located on the border between China and Pakistan in the Karakoram Mountains, and is the only 8000-meter peak not to have been climbed in the winter. The optimal season for summits is July and August. Most climbers approach from the Pakistan side, starting in Islamabad, then take a bus ride to the town of Skardu. From there, it’s a 10-day treacherous hike to get to base camp, situated at 18,000 feet.
The difficulty in climbing K2 lies in the fact that it’s prone to frequent and severe storms that make treacherous climbing conditions even more challenging. The number of climbers who have reached the summit is only a small fraction compared to successful summits of Mt. Everest, and proportionally K2 has the second highest fatality rate of all 8000-meter peaks (Annapurna, the 10th highest mountain, has the most.)
All 8000-meter Peaks in Descending Order
Mount Everest (8848 m)
K2 (8614 m)
Kangchenjunga (8586 m)
Lhotse (8516 m)
Makalu (8485 m)
Cho Oyu (8188 m)
Dhaulagiri (8167 m)
Manaslu (8163 m)
Nanga Parbat (8125 m)
Annapurna (8091 m)
Gasherbrum I (8080 m)
Broad Peak (8051 m)
Gasherbrum II (8035 m)
Shishapangma (8027 m)
I hope you’ll check out COLD HORIZON. I poured my heart and soul into Ty and Lindsey’s story. And if you’re fascinated with great white sharks, I invite you to check out the first book in the Pathway series, DEEP BLUE. Underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway is hired to produce a documentary of Dr. Grace Mann freediving with great whites, but can he keep her safe when her passionate focus on the sharks just might get her killed?
Ambition and courage at the top of the world …
Lindsey Coulson likes to scale mountains. With her sister, Alison, she has made a name for herself climbing the tallest and most treacherous peaks in the world. But when Alison dies on a K2 expedition—the second highest mountain on earth—Lindsey stops climbing. Unable to shed the grief over her sister, it becomes clear she must return to the wilderness, and only one place will do—K2, the Savage Mountain.
Tyler Galloway has finally secured a permit from the Pakistani government to bring an American team to K2. When Lindsey Coulson inquires about joining the expedition, he gladly brings the famed mountaineer on board. Her strong climbing resume precedes her, and she’ll be a welcome addition to the small crew he has assembled. But K2 is a force unto itself, as is Lindsey. Both will test his limits. And both will test his heart.
Lindsey’s earlier euphoria had given way to a headache that had started pulsing behind her eyes. Trying to ignore it, she paused to take in the expansive view. An endless array of peaks, whiter than usual, filled the horizon. The world was crisp and new, the sun a small, shining dot in a sky as blue as a swimming pool. Lindsey had to imagine the warmth it could offer, because no rays of sunshine had reached them as yet.
She attempted an invigorating inhale of fresh mountain air, but instead it was like dragging ice cubes through her nose, and her lungs struggled for oxygen that wasn’t there. With one final sweep, she enjoyed the abundance of mountains surrounding them, a mythical, almost unreal collection of snow-covered summits and the frozen river at the bottom carved by glacier movement.
Ty, covered in a yellow and black climbing suit, motioned for her to precede him. David, clad in a blue suit, was already at the top of the Black Pyramid. He hooked onto the fixed rope, faced the mountain, then disappeared.
Ty stepped in front of her and gently pulled at her harness, doing a safety check on her once again. She didn’t bother to suppress the smile that crept on her face since the balaclava hid it. Despite the exhaustion pressing on her, she’d already checked her gear three times.
Giving a reciprocal tug on his harness, she eyed the buckle. All good.
Carefully she kneeled and clipped her harness to the fixed rope with a figure-eight device and then eased herself over the edge. The memory muscle of rappelling kicked in, and she began her descent.
Suddenly, Ty released a guttural roar. She glanced up just as Elena’s red clad body careened toward her. Lindsey scrambled to move, but it was too late—the woman slammed into her and with a jerk, they snapped to a stop.
Stunned, Lindsey hung upside down with her back to the mountain, struggling to hold Elena against her chest since the other woman likely wasn’t tied on—to anything. Lindsey’s descender had snapped off the fixed rope and was dangling in her face. Her backup clip must have caught her, but how long would it hold?
“Elena,” she said, trying to get her attention.
“Here,” she replied, her head near Lindsey’s.
Good, she was conscious.
“Before I can let you go, you’ve got to get hooked to the rope.”
Elena flailed and a wave of dizziness hit Lindsey, her stomach boiling.
“Hold on,” Ty yelled.
“Don’t move,” Lindsey ground out between her teeth. “Wait for Ty.”
“I’m below you.” David’s voice echoed beside her ear.
“I’ll get Elena,” Ty said, now closer.
The woman was yanked from Lindsey’s grasp. From below, David pushed Lindsey’s shoulders as Ty leaned down and took hold of her harness as well, but rather than attach her to the fixed line, he hooked himself directly to her. A wave of nausea hit as she shifted upright; she had no time to offer a warning and barely got her balaclava free before she lost her breakfast.
Twisting downhill, she vomited, barely missing David.
“Sonovabitch,” he bellowed.
Coughing, a second wave of convulsions overtook her, the bluish contents of her stomach splattered across the white snow.
“Lindsey, take it easy,” Ty said, his voice calm and soothing.
She hung off the rope, praying the queasiness would pass. This wasn’t the place to be sick.
“David, we need to get her down.” The icy change in Ty’s tone signaled the urgency of the situation.
Copyright © 2019 K. McCaffrey LLC
Kristy McCaffrey writes historical western romances brimming with grit and emotion, along with contemporary adventure stories packed with smoldering romance and spine-tingling suspense. Her work is filled with compelling heroes, determined heroines, and her trademark mysticism. Kristy holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering, but writing has been her passion since she was very young.
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