The Climbing Diary of Paul Tassel

On August 12, three amateur mountaineers attempted ascent of K2’s notorious north ridge. What follows is a series of excepts from the diary of Paul Tassel, the only party member to survive long enough to make contact with society again.


[Note: the pages leading up to the ascent itself have been omitted for brevity’s sake]

Aug. 12

Cheated base weight by leaving the stove, packing a single-wall tent. Dane says I’m playing a fool’s game, but the extra pounds mean a lot. Dave’s already struggling in the snow, and we didn’t get an alpine start so he’s probably having a harder time than he needs to.


Fuck. Cache is torn open. Something got at it. Dave says it’s a Lynx, but I don’t think they’re around here. We stocked up as best we could. So much for less weight. I took the water. Dave’s low in the powder already.

Aug. 13

Iceman found.

Aug. 14.

I can’t believe it. I can look over the pictures and I still can’t believe I was so close to a piece of history. We found a fucking mummy! This is just fucking magic. This is why I got into climbing.

I didn’t even know they made mummies around here. He’s a little less dignified than the Egyptian mummies, all he has is this furry pouch that makes it look like he has fluffy grey pubes. Dane nearly died laughing.

I wonder who he was, why they left him up here to die. His skull’s split and his face looks like he’s screaming in fear, maybe we’ve got the world’s oldest cold case file (ha) He must’ve been somebody important, I heard they only tattooed the important people. In the places where he isn’t yellow leather, he’s dark blue. I can’t imagine all the needle-pricks that went into making that. I feel almost bad for posing with him like he’s a cardboard cutout, but when the hell are we ever going to get a chance like this again? We planted a flag by him, promised we’d be back for him later. Don’t worry, iceman. One way or another, you’re getting off this mountain.

Aug. 15

We left the iceman and ascended. Dave even waved bye to it, I think he was the one who posed him like he was scratching his balls. Thank god those pictures aren’t on Dane’s Nikon or we’d have every scientist in the world after us.

Good start. The pack’s nice and hard.

Aug. 16

Good weather. We’re late in the season, but we made up for it.

Aug. 17

We haven’t seen the ropes yet. Dave didn’t want to use someone else’s system, wanted to man his way over the mountain I guess. We rightly convinced him it would be suicide.

We should have seen them by now.  

Aug. 18



We found him again. It’s impossible. But there he is. The red flag we planted. The cache we left at his feet.

Dane is looking at the route map those Canadians gave us. Dave’s just kicking snow. Goddamn, how did this even happen? Did we double back somehow?

Aug. 19

We tried descending. I got so dizzy I thought I was going to fall down. Couldn’t tell down from up, anyway. Dane puked on himself because he didn’t know which way to heave. We stopped trying.

Aug. 23

We’re back. The wrapper I ripped is still ripped, in the same place.I threw it away, watched the wind take it.

Aug. 24

We tried descending. Vertigo. Went back up.

Aug. 27

We’re back. The wrapper I ripped is still ripped, in the same place. Someone must be fucking with us.

Sept. 1

It’s my sister’s birthday today. We’re back at the fucking cache. I hope she’s eating better than us.

Sept. 3



I didn’t know he was going to do it. This diary will be proof. I didn’t think Dave was that angry. Me and Dane were in our tents and we heard Dave shout. The iceman didn’t make a noise when Dave rolled him off the mountain, but he made his mark. On Dave. Dane’s treating it now. Looks nasty. Serves him right. We’re all angry, but that dude was a chunk of history.

Sept. 10

We made it we made it, jesus christ we made it. I didn’t want to write anything just incase.

Dave’s not doing too well. Thought it was AMS until I saw his hand. Dane’s globbing on the neosporin but we really need to get him to a hospital.

It’s not like we’re doing any better. We passed the cache by without taking anything. We’ve been climbing for days on dwindling supplies. God, I hope we summit soon.

Sept. 11

The second we hit Eagle’s Nest a storm blew up. Dave’s incoherent. We’re all bunking in the same tent to try to keep him warm, but you can see it in his eyes. He’s almost gone. We needed the time we’ll lose to this storm.

Sept. 12

Dave keeps asking me if I have any marshmallows left. I think he thinks we’re back on Mt. Josephine. My 15th birthday. I never asked for presents, I always wanted to go places. I take back my birthday request. As a special gift to me, can my best friend not fucking die?

Sept. 13

oh jesus god no


i can’t


Dave stood up for the first time in days. His hand was swollen to the size of his foot. He started laughing, saying “I can’t believe it’s over. The sun feels so good on my skin.” God. It was still coming down in droves. Dave ran out before we could grab him, goddamn hands were so cold I could barely open them, shed his coat and a pair of pants as he did. He tore the zipper and ran out. Laughing. God, he was laughing. What am I going to tell his mom?


The storm died down an hour after it took Dave. Of fucking course. Dane went left and I went right. Dave was so crazy he probably went right over the edge, but I wasn’t going to say it. We needed to look.

I wasn’t gone that long when Dane bowled me over, scared to shit. I asked what he was running from. He told me he’d found some rocks he couldn’t stop staring at, didn’t know why he couldn’t. After a minute he realized that someone was lying on the rocks. Someone the exact same color and texture of the rocks, lying perfectly still. He was so scared I couldn’t get anything else out of him. God, don’t take him away too.

Sept. 14

Neither of us will admit it, but we’ve stopped looking for Dave. Dane said it was best to go on, if we tried to go down we’d just get dizzy again. I’m more afraid of finding Dave’s body, but I didn’t say that.

Sept. 16

why didn’t we tie ourselves together why didn’t i tie us together you’d think after we lost dave i would’ve thought that but i’m an idiot.


God, I have to put this down. I don’t know if anyone but me will read this diary, ever, but I have to put down what happened. Maybe people will think I went nuts and killed both my friends. Trust me, if I had done that, the next person on my kill list is holding the pencil.

He was right in front of me. He was putting up our ski poles to make a support system. Safety first. I was just checking the fisherman’s knot on my pack i swear i only looked away for a second and he screamed god i’ve never heard him scream like that and he was gone but the scream just went on and on


Okay, I can finish this. I went to the edge. The vertigo was back, but I went to my hands and knees and went all the way up to it. I didn’t care if i fell too, i had to see if i could see him. If the scream was anything to go by, he fell for half an hour. I don’t know how that’s possible. It isn’t possible. None of this is.

I’m alone.

Sept. 19

I can’t see the point anymore. I can’t bring their bodies back to their families. I can’t bring closure.

Sept. 27

It’s my fault. It was my birthday. “Let’s go climbing,” I said, “somewhere hard.” Asshole. God.

October? 3?

On my 18th, we went to Moose Mountain. Didn’t plan. Didn’t tell the folks. Just threw some things in the car and left in the middle of the night. I remember [personal anecdote omitted by request of the deceased’s family.]

And I was the one who got hurt. They carried me down the mountain, got ice for my ankle at the Hardee’s. Why couldn’t that happen this time? It’s my fault. It’s all my fault.

October 10 15 20?

White. White. [note: the following 2 pages contained nothing but the word “white” repeated ad nauseum.]

Undated entry

I’m going up. It’s all I can do.

Undated entry

My fingers are black.

Undated entry

I think the world is a snowglobe and god’s shake shaking it up.

Undated entry

am i up or down? walking? a level path to the sky. on either side a drop to hell

Undated entry

not hungry. cold. not cold. numb. not numb. dumb. dumb dumb dumb.

Undated entry

Wh ere ism y ic ema nf rie nd???

Undated entry

i saw them. hoods. the mountain finally fucking came out to kill me. i scream as long as dana did.


[Paul Tassel died shortly after this final entry. The only information on the climb comes from this journal, as the digital camera was presumably lost along with Dana Holt’s body. Neither Dana nor David’s bodies have been sighted by subsequent climbers. The “iceman” mummy has not been recovered.]



Filed under fiction

2 responses to “The Climbing Diary of Paul Tassel

  1. Damn. What a way to go. Great stuff as usual.

  2. thanks!
    looking forward to working with you again soon

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