• The Summit Film and Book


The Summit: How Triumph Turned To Tragedy On K2's Deadliest Days is now available in bookshops throughout Ireland as well as online from the following outlets:

The Summit Book


On 1 August 2008, 18 climbers from across the world reached the summit of K2, the world's second highest and most dangerous mountain...
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The Summit Book K2

authors bios

Pat Falvey

Pat Falvey is an Irish adventurer and mountaineer who has led expeditions to many parts of the world ...

Pemba Gyalje Sherpa

Pemba Gyalje Sherpa was born in northern Nepal and grew up in the shadow of Mount Everest ...

Bios in details

The Summit Book Authors

authors bios

Pat Falvey is an Irish adventurer and mountaineer who has led expeditions to many parts of the world, including Everest, Antarctica...
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Extract from The Summit Book


At 8,300 metres, Cecilie Skog was trying to manoeuvre her way to the top of the Bottleneck and onto the Traverse. It was...
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the summit directed by nick ryan

The Film

An Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions documentary, directed and produced by Nick Ryan 'The Summit' movie has won numerous awards world wide...
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the book

The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2's Deadliest Days is available in all good bookshops and online from our store. It will be available as an eBook in December 2013 and as an audio book in spring 2014.

On 1 August 2008, 18 climbers from across the world reached the summit of K2, the world's second highest and most dangerous mountain - a peak which claims the life of one in every four climbers who attempt it. Over the course of 28 hours, however, K2 had exacted a deadly toll: 11 lives were lost in a series of catastrophic accidents. Attracting a climbing elite and standing at 8,611 metres on the Pakistan-China border, K2 is known as the 'Mountaineer's Mountain' because of its extreme technical challenges, its dangerously unpredictable weather and an infamous and hazardous overhanging wall of ice known as the Serac.

Snow-bound at Base Camp for weeks on end and increasingly despairing of their prospects of success, an unexpected weather window gave the climbers the opportunity they were waiting for. In their collective desire to reach the summit, seven expeditions agreed to co-ordinate their efforts and share their equipment. Triumph quickly turned to tragedy, however, when a seemingly flawless plan unravelled with lethal consequences. Amongst those who died was County Limerick native, Ger McDonnell, who was the first Irishman ever to reach the summit of K2. He tragically lost his life on the descent after a heroic attempt to save the lives of three severely injured climbers who had spent the night hanging on the fixed ropes at the top of the Traverse.

Over the course of three days, a Nepalese Sherpa called Pemba Gyalje, along with five other Sherpas, was at the centre of a series of attempts to rescue climbers who had become trapped in the Death Zone, unable to escape its clutches and debilitated by oxygen deprivation, chronic fatigue, delirium and a terrifying hopelessness.

The tragedy became a controversy as the survivors walked from the catastrophe on the mountain into an international media storm, in which countless different stories emerged, some contradictory and many simply untrue. Based on Pemba Gyalje's eyewitness account and drawing on a series of interviews with the survivors which were conducted for the award-winning documentary, The Summit (Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions, 2012), The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2's Deadliest Days is the most comprehensive interpretation of one of modern-day mountaineering's most controversial disasters.

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extract from 'THE SUMMIT' Book

At 8,300 metres, Cecilie Skog was trying to manoeuvre her way to the top of the Bottleneck and onto the Traverse. It was approaching 10.30am. As the fixed lines were secured, the climbers had begun to pick their way along the ropes from the top of the couloir. Finally it seemed that the logjam of people below was about to be freed. The ice was blue underfoot on parts of the Traverse, requiring the climbers to use the front points of their crampons and ice axes to secure purchase on the crystalline, rock-hard surface while remaining tethered to the fixed ropes at all times.

Cecilie tried not to look up at the gargantuan Serac. Face to face with it, the climbers could see little else in their line of sight but the multi-storey blocks of ice and the deep crevasses of which it is comprised. Ahead of Cecilie were several South Korean team members and she could also see some of the trail breakers further along the line. Not long now, she thought. The heat of the sun warmed her as she stalled briefly so that others could pass her and move forward; several climbers were becoming frustrated by the pace of the ascent and, in their impatience, were trying to overtake the slower climbers.

Dren Mandic of the Serb team was a short distance ahead of Cecilie near the beginning of the Traverse, and he seemed agitated. The 31-year-old carpenter and amateur zoologist from Subotica in Serbia needed to replace his oxygen cylinder. The only safe place to do so was a small, flat outcrop of rock further back along the line near the top of the Bottleneck where his team-mate, Iso Planic, had already stopped to replenish his supply.

Dren needed to double back; trying to change his oxygen bottle while hanging from a rope and relying only on his crampons for grip on a near-vertical wall of ice would be absurd. Out of the corner of her eye, Cecilie saw Dren approach from just above her to the left. He wanted to pass by her to get back to Iso, and she pressed herself close to the frigid ice to allow him climb around her.

Moving adjacent to Cecilie, Dren unclipped his carabiner from the rope and was in the process of stepping around her in what should have been a relatively uncomplicated procedure. He tried to get a grip on the ice with his right leg as he manoeuvred. But, for a fleeting moment, Dren lost contact with the fixed ropes, his left boot skidding from under him. He had unclipped on one side of Cecilie, but he hadn't clipped on the other side. Then he slipped and took her with him. Cecilie was suddenly falling downwards and she shrieked in horror.

Within seconds, her jumar had pulled tight, holding her on the ropes. She spun round and came to a shuddering halt, her back now to the mountain, hanging there like a puppet on a string. In desperation, and with nothing connecting him to the ropes above, Dren reached out to try to bear-hug her, but he slid away at high speed and, without his ice axe, which had fallen, all attempts at self-arrest failed abysmally. There was nothing to hold onto on the slick-like ice. From the Bottleneck, Rolf Bae looked up and roared his wife's name, 'Cecilie! Cecilie!'.

Several metres away, Pemba heard a woman scream. He looked down just in time to see Dren slip from the line and pull Cecilie off her position on the fixed ropes; he saw her stop suddenly as her jumar engaged. The Serb continued to freefall like a stone, and Pemba thought he saw Cecilie trying to grab Dren as he plunged. 'Oh my God!' somebody shouted. Emitting a guttural wail, Dren plummeted further and further, passing right by those climbers still in the Bottleneck. Their heads turned like dominoes as they watched him rocket downwards.

Suddenly, Dren came to a halt a short distance below them and, within seconds, he bounced to his feet, like an unloading spring. Lars Nessa noticed him stand up. He waved, as if to say, 'I am okay, I am okay', and Lars felt relieved that Dren had survived the fall. But, immediately, the disoriented Serb flipped backwards in an awkward cartwheel motion and began to slide again at speed. He plunged a further 300 metres across the ice, his body hitting some rocks and coming to a halt several hundred metres below the Bottleneck. This time, he didn't stand up.

Dren's team-mates had seen him fall. Iso Planic and Predrag Zagorac, with Mohammad Hussein, their only remaining high-altitude worker, had been waiting to move across the Traverse. Predrag and Mohammad roared Dren's name as he hurtled past them and, within minutes, all three Serb team members were rappelling downwards, the other climbers moving aside to allow them descend: they had to rescue their friend.

Zooming in with the lens of his camcorder to create an improvised telescope, Fredrik Sträng quickly located a body splayed about 300 metres below the Bottleneck. 'How can someone fall on this perfect day?' he thought. 'No wind. It's bright, it's great. How is it possible?' As soon as Eric realised there had been an accident, he radioed the only American team member on the slopes above. 'He is still moving,' the doctor heard Chhiring Dorje say, 'and he needs medical help.'

Turning to his team-mate, Fredrik said, 'We have to do something. I'm going to save this guy'. His companions weren't sure what to do. Chris Klinke had just returned from the foot of the Bottleneck, discommoded by headache, and Roberto Manni was still suffering badly from the effects of high altitude.

Fredrik decided to consult with those at Base Camp; he knew that he and the others at Camp Four could be affected by hypoxia and cognitive problems brought on by being at a high altitude, and consequently handicapped in making a sensible decision. 'We were not as smart as the people down in Base Camp so we wanted their neutral suggestion,' said Fredrik, 'and when we got their approval after explaining our situation we started to arrange all the materials.'

Eric delayed no longer; he knew his expertise would be required and he rushed to grab a medical kit from his tent. Fredrik hurriedly assembled what he would need when he got to Dren – oxygen, water, a sleeping bag, a walkie-talkie. 'I'm going to save this guy. There's no way he's going to die, not this day,' he yelled. Having taken off his suit in the warmth of his tent, he quickly re-dressed and he and Eric set out from camp, the Swede ascending much quicker and some distance ahead of the Colorado medic.

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authors bios

The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2’s Deadliest Days is published by Beyond Endurance Publishing in association with The O’Brien Press.

Pat Falvey is an Irish adventurer and mountaineer who has led expeditions to many parts of the world, including Everest, Antarctica, Greenland and West Papua New Guinea. He has twice been to each of the highest peaks on the seven continents. An author, motivational speaker and film-maker, he is the executive producer of The Summit (Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions, 2012) which portrays on screen the story told in this book. Pat lives in County Kerry, near Ireland's highest mountain, Carrauntoohil.pat falvey bio

Pemba Gyalje Sherpa was born in northern Nepal and grew up in the shadow of Mount Everest. His experience as a professional mountain guide has taken him to the Alps and Himalaya, including to the summit of Everest on seven occasions. He is an IVBV/UIAGM/IFMGA-certified mountain guide since 2009 and is an expert in alpine rescue and climbing. For the past 13 years he has been a trainer in high-altitude mountaineering. He is the current president of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association (NNMGA). In recognition of his heroism during the K2 tragedy, he was named the National Geographic Best Adventurer of 2008. Pemba lives in Kathmandu with his wife and two children.


More dates coming soon...Audiovisual presentation and talk with Pat and Pemba

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Dublin book launch

Minister Jimmy Deenihan will launch The Summit: How Triumph Turned To Tragedy On K2's Deadliest Days on Tuesday 3 December at 8pm at Waterways Ireland, 2 Grand Canal Quay, Ringsend, Dublin 2. Pat and Pemba will give an audiovisual presentation and talk at the event. All welcome.

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Dynamic Summit Climbs Heights of Tragedy, Heroism by Sara Michelle Fetters

It is the most dangerous mountain on Earth. Out of every four climbers who make it to the top, an estimated 300, only three will make it back down again alive. It is K2, most commonly known as 'Savage Mountain,' an extension of the northwestern Himalayan Mountain range, ascending to its summit taking an uncommon amount of bravery, smarts, skill, luck and, let's face it, stupidity very few human beings anywhere in the entire world possesses. More at

The Summit Book By Pat Falvey and Pemba Gyalje
You can read the full story more details of the what happened in those tragic days leading to August 2008 and the aftermath, The climbers, the mind set, the rescues, the death Zone and the effects of numbing of the brain cells, the insight into decision making process, the highs and lows and the ensuing controversy. Written by two world renowned High altitude expedition leaders.

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Signed copies of The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2's Deadliest Days will be available on Sunday 17 November at Cork Opera House when co-authors Pat and Pemba will be present for the screening of The Summit film. Pemba, who was a member of the Dutch-led North team - one of the expeditions to K2 in 2008 - will participate in a Q&A session with The Summit film director, Nick Ryan.

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The savior and the storm on K2

On August 1, 2008, at just about 8 p.m., a massive serac cleaved from a glacier near the summit of K2, the world's second highest mountain, and barreled down a section of the Cesen climbing route called the Bottleneck. In an instant, one climber was dead, key safety lines were swept away, and 17 climbers were trapped above 27,000 feet with little chance of escape.

In the days ahead, the disaster on K2 would become one of the deadliest mountaineering incidents in history, leaving 11 victims in its wake. The tragedy would shake modern mountaineering to its core. And it would yield a hero, Pemba Gyalje Sherpa.

Pemba, 34, and three members of his Norit K2 team—leader Wilco van Rooijen, Marco Confortola, and Gerard McDonnell—reached the Bottleneck minutes after the serac fell. Rather than face a dangerous descent in total darkness, Pemba's three teammates decided to bivouac for the night. At 27,000 feet the temperatures would reach minus 40ºF. Pemba, a seven-time Everest veteran, knew the dangers of the death zone. He chose instead to descend the Bottleneck alone, without oxygen, picking his way down the 60-degree couloir guided by a single tattered safety line that had survived the avalanche. He reached Camp IV by 1 a.m. His teammates, he assumed, would be down at first light.

By daybreak on August 2, chaos reigned. More than a dozen climbers were missing or dead, and the weather had worsened considerably. Van Rooijen had staggered away from the team, desperate to get down by a different route, and soon became hopelessly lost. McDonnell had wandered back uphill, apparently confused. Frostbitten and delirious, Confortola had climbed partway down the Bottleneck, unable to remember how he'd done it. Just before he passed out from altitude sickness, a second avalanche swept toward him carrying McDonnell's mangled corpse.

With his team in shambles, Pemba had to act fast. He heard over the radio that Confortola had been spotted midway up the Bottleneck. "I thought, OK, if we are lucky, I can rescue Marco," Pemba says. So he began to climb, soloing through swirling snow up the couloir. "It was very scary, but I knew Marco was still alive," he says. "I could not turn back."

When Pemba reached Confortola some hours later, the Italian was in bad shape, unconscious and suffering from severe altitude sickness. Somehow Pemba managed to revive him with oxygen and guide him to the base of the Bottleneck. At that moment another slide roared from above, this time carrying the bloodied bodies of two Sherpas and two Korean climbers. A chunk of falling ice blasted Confortola in the back of the head. Dazed, the Italian began to slip. "I was falling," he told a reporter. "The avalanche would have taken me away. But Pemba grabbed me from behind. He was holding my neck. He saved my life."

By the time the pair made it to Camp IV, Pemba was shattered, collapsing into his tentfor a few hours' sleep. When he woke that evening, he got word that van Rooijen, the lost Norit K2 leader, was still alive. He had to go out again.

After a night alone in the open with no water and no ice ax, van Rooijen had been presumed dead. Then, unexpectedly, he called his wife on his satellite phone. Using the call data, the Norit K2 team fixed his location on the mountain's South Face, far from any known routes.

Armed with only rough coordinates, Pemba, along with another survivor, Cas van de Gevel, struck into terra incognita, picking across avalanche-prone terrain at night. After searching for hours, the pair decided to resume the next day. They finally found van Rooijen in the late afternoon by following the sound of his ringing cell phone. The three men staggered into Camp III well after dark, on August 3, exhausted but alive.

In the weeks after the tragedy, Pemba returned to his Kathmandu home, far from the horrors he'd just witnessed. You'd think that after such an experience, he would never want to climb again, soured forever. But Pemba has no such plans. He'll be back in the mountains, he says, by the time next season rolls around. Thank goodness. Climbing needs more heroes like him.

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The Summit, which was the opening night film of the 2013 Banff Film Festival, has won the Best Feature Length Mountain Film award. Cecilie Skog, who was one of the climbers with the Norwegian team in 2008, and whose husband, Rolf Bae, died on the mountain, accepted the award on behalf of Image Now Films. A renowned adventurer, Skog’s experience of the events that took place on K2 in 2008 is recounted extensively in both The Summit film and the book, The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2’s Deadliest Days.

Silvo Karo, jurer at the film festival said: “It will never be completely clear what happened at the beginning of August 2008 as climbers approached the summit of K2. Through brilliant, convincing photography, the director succeeds in creating a mosaic of scenes from the stories of those who survived but there remains and empty space for the eleven stories swallowed up by the mountain.”

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about the film

An Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions documentary, directed and produced by Nick Ryan

The Summit has won numerous awards worldwide. It documents the deadliest day on the most dangerous mountain in the world. For every four people who attempt to climb K2, the world's second-highest mountain, one has died in the effort. On 1 August, 2008, 18 climbers from across the world reached the summit of K2. Over the course of 28 hours, 11 lives were lost in a series of catastrophic accidents. This film tells their story.

Some Reviews:
"The Summit is an excellent documentary on what happened to the climbers who tried to scale K2, the world's second-highest mountain, in early August 2008 , when several groups of climbers from various nations tried to climb K2 at one time This is where one of the problems in the movie takes place, too many climbers at one time using the same climbing ice rope is not a good thing. The film draws on interviews pieced together, first eye witness accounts, and use of re-creations not captured by climbers sometimes. When climbing a mountain, any mountain, there is always falling ice, and that's not good! Director Nick Ryan does a great job putting this whole thing together and that's not an easy task.The Summit is a must-see film and we at Movie Reviews and More give it 3 out of 4 Es - it's Entertaining, Engaging and Educational."

"Everything you ever wanted to know about the perils of scaling the second-highest mountain on earth but were afraid to ask. Nick Ryan's nature documentary-cum-waking nightmare returns to a 48-hour period in 2008, when 11 climbers who had reached the top of K2 - the fearsome peak in the Himalayas that's earned the nickname "Savage Mountain" - perished on their descent. Friends, relatives and fellow climbers weigh in on several expedition members who lost their lives that day (the deceased are seen mostly through pictures and home movies); special attention is paid to Irishman Ger McDonnell, whose own footage of the trek through the "death zone" is interspersed throughout the movie. You'd expect to see such things in a documentary, but it's Ryan's addition of re-creations of the day's fateful ascents and descents that turn this post-mortem into something like a thriller. Using the r-word in documentaries is often a dodgy prospect, especially when you're memorializing losses, yet it's these vertigo-inducing scenes (shot on similarly snowy, if not as steep, summits) that deepen the sense of danger those men and women faced. As you watch these actors, you appreciate the endeavor the climbers went through all the more - and as triumph turns to tragedy, you feel the grief winding its way through your shaken nervous systems."
Time Out New York

"The Summit, a riveting documentary about a disastrous moment in mountain-climbing history, doesn't spend much time trying to explain why anyone would tackle a climb that kills a quarter of the people who attempt it. It's a smart omission on the part of the director, Nick Ryan. Whenever extreme athletes and adventurers try to convey why they pursue high-risk activities, they end up spouting the kind of not-very-illuminating clichés that would have only bogged this movie down. Instead, The Summit simply accepts the age-old truth that if there is a mountain on the planet, someone will try to reach the top of it. That lets it insert you into the slowly unfolding disaster that took place in early August 2008, as several groups of climbers representing various nationalities tried to ascend K2, the world's second-highest mountain. Eleven died. The film, drawing on interviews with survivors and on footage that was shot by several participants during the climb, pieces together what apparently happened, a terrifying tale of falling ice, a shortage of rope, confusion and heroism. Mr. Ryan gets a bit hagiographic when it comes to one climber, Gerard McDonnell, and his use of re-creations to depict scenes that were not captured by the camera-wielding climbers is sometimes clunky. But the film over all is a pulse-pounding success."
New York Times

"Plenty of documentaries share stories worth telling, and play just fine resting on the strengths of those stories, incorporating requisite elements like talking-head interviews, news headlines, and archival footage. Filmmaker Nick Ryan's The Summit, which meticulously explores the 2008 K2 disaster that claimed 11 lives, has all of these elements. But what it also has is a stunning abundance of visceral re-enactments, which placed Ryan and his crew on an actual mountainside, where the intimate (and tragic) moments that the climbers' own cameras missed were recreated. A veteran director of short films like The German and A Lonely Sky, for which he also served as writer and visual effects artist, Ryan devoted a considerable chunk of his life to doing this incredible story justice, and employed every tool at his disposal. With a team of fellow filmmakers, actors, and actual survivors of the disaster (like Pemba Gyalje Sherpa, who served as an advisor), Ryan hit the slopes and faced the elements, and that was only part one of a very layered filmmaking process. Without ever trivializing the gravity of what occurred five years back, Ryan is keen to acknowledge the parallels that exist between embarking to climb a mountain and embarking to make an uncommonly immersive film about climbing a mountain. Speaking with me recently, the director, producer, writer, editor, and forever-changed witness of the "scary" greatness of K2 went into detail about how he re-envisioned the climbers' tumultuous journey, and how he too got caught up in the "obsession" K2 elicits from those who face it.

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An Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions documentary


Beyond Endurance Publishing
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Beaufort, Killarney,
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The Summit Book

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