The Ghosts of K2 The Epic Saga of the First Ascent of K2

The extraordinary tale of the first ascent of the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram by an Italian team in 1954, succeeding where Fritz Wiessner, Charles Houston and Aleister Crowley had failed.


Most of us will never experience K2. Conefrey leaves readers with both tremendous admiration for and an appreciation of the consequences for those who succeed in an adventure so physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing.

– Kirkus Reviews, Kirkus

There is a haunting tone to the very name K2, this impossible mountain upon the flanks of which so many lives have been lost. In this wonderful book Mick Conefrey manages to turn the sound of tragedy into a celebration of hope, a triumph of the spirit.

– Wade Davis, Oneworld

If The Ghosts of K2 has a hero, surely it is Charlie Houston, prime mover of the American 1938 and 1953 attempts, whose credo, lived out on his expeditions, was that ‘the way in which you make an attempt is as important as whether you get to the top’. ”

– Gregory Crouch, The Wall St Journal

Using newly available source materials and interviews with surviving team members of past expeditions, author Mick Conefrey skillfully re-constructs a vivid and gripping history of the mountain.

– National Outdoor Book Award Jury, NOBA

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Avaialable as Hardback, Paperback, Kindle and Audiobook


Oneworld Publications
First Edition 18-10-2015
Italian, Polish, Czech
hardback, paperback
16 x 3.4 x 23.7 cm


At 28,251 ft, K2 might be almost 800 ft shorter than Everest, but it’s a far harder climb. It will kill you on the way up and the way down. In this definitive account, Mick Conefrey grippingly describes the early attempts to conquer this iconic mountain, and explores the complicated legacy of the first ascent.

Beginning with the ill-fated efforts of drug-addicted occultist Aleister Crowley, The Ghosts of K2 charts how a slew of great men became fixated by this legendary mountain: the wealthy Italian Duke of Abruzzi; Fritz Wiessner, the man who revolutionised climbing in the USA; the brilliant but tortured expedition leader Charlie Houston; and Achille Compagnoni and Lindo Lacedelli, the Italian duo who finally became the first to reach the summit. For each of them, K2 became an obsession, but it brought happiness to none.

Through exclusive interviews with surviving team members and their families, and unrivalled access to diaries and letters that have been archived around the world, Conefrey evokes the true atmosphere of the ‘Savage Mountain’ and explores why it remains the ‘mountaineer’s mountain’, despite a history steeped in controversy and death. Wrought with tension, and populated by tragic heroes and eccentric dreamers, The Ghosts of K2 is a masterpiece of mountaineering literature.