Prelude: An Excerpt from Victor Saunders’s Newest Book, Structured Chaos

Cloudy sunrise over Pakistan's Karakoram | Michael Grimwade
Cloudy sunrise over Pakistan's Karakoram | Michael Grimwade


In July, famed British mountaineer Victor Saunders will be leading a World Expeditions trek to the base camp at K2, the second highest mountain on earth. This spectacular trek will follow winding trails along the roiling Braldu River before trekking up the Baltoro Glacier. From a high camp Victor will lead us up the Godwin Austen Glacier to K2 base camp. From here, you’ll be able to see many of the wildly difficult summit climbing routes that make K2 “the Savage Mountain.”

Victor is a special leader. After a career as a London architect, he became a certified mountain guide. He has been pushing a now-common elite style of alpine climbing since the 1980s. Some of his climbs are true markers in the history of mountaineering.

Victor Saunders

He’s done new routes ranging from monstrous high-altitude granite walls like the Golden Pillar of Spantik to the well-known Seven Summits, and Everest, which he climbed six times between 2004 and 2012. He’s also climbed the Great Trango Tower as well as Manaslu and Cho Oyu, two of the world’s 8,000-metre peaks.

Victor is also an outstanding writer. His first book, Elusive Summits, won the Boardman–Tasker, the most prestigious award in world mountaineering literature. Here he offers trekkers and other interested readers an excerpt from the beginning of his latest book, Structured Chaos.


Mountains have given structure to my adult life. I suppose they have also given me purpose, though I still can’t guess what that purpose might be. And although I have glimpsed the view from the mountaintop and I still have some memory of what direction life is meant to be going in, I usually lose sight of the wood for the trees. In other words, I, like most of us, have lived a life of structured chaos.

A mountaineer’s life is not without risk. Although that’s rather obvious, isn’t it? And anyway, all lives contain risk. As for managing those risks, we like to think that’s all about making good decisions, in day-to-day life as well as in the mountains. Even though good decisions are based on experience, which in turn is gathered from the consequences of bad ones.

Well, perhaps. We tell ourselves, this way lies truth and that way lies ... well, just that: lies. We try to look ahead, to envision the destination, as we stagger, sometimes knowingly, more often blindly, through the dark forest of decision trees that make up our existence.

On this confusing journey, this wandering through the woods, my best guides have been my unspeakable friends with their incomprehensible ideas and impossible beliefs. Decisions are made difficult because I believe, like most of my friends, in many contradictory things.

Here’s an example: the Sybarite’s Creed and the Climber’s Creed.

Sybarite’s Creed: Never bivouac if you can camp. Never camp if there is a hut. Never sleep in a hut if you can book a hotel.

Climber’s Creed: If you were not cold, you had too many clothes. If you were not hungry, you carried too much food. If you were not frightened, you had too much equipment. If you got up the climb, well, it was too easy.

I believe in both creeds, wholeheartedly and without reservation.
I got to be this way not through design or planning, but through Brownian motion, following an erratic path, knocked this way and that by people, mostly those self-same unspeakable friends.

It has taken me a lifetime to realise that, all the while, it was people and not places I valued most. I have now been on more than ninety expeditions, accumulating seven years under canvas. I have climbed on all continents, many of the trips involving big adventures and occasional first ascents.

And yet it is not the mountains that remain with me but the friendships. In 1940 Colin Kirkus said: ‘going to the right place, at the right time, with the right people is all that really matters. What one does is purely incidental.’ This book is about what really matters.

To learn more about Victor’s fantastic trip and to book your place, go here.

victor saunders, karakoram trekking, K2 trekking

Comment (0)

Your comment will be visible after the administrator's approval.

b i u quote

Save Comment
Join Newsletter
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ADS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Adventures South"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Adventure South</div>
Adventure South NZ is unrivalled in their geographic coverage, originality and overall quality of adventures holidays in New Zealand. Choose from walking, cycling, winter or multi-activity holidays, on either the North or South Island.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/AWH.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Walking Holidays"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Walking Holidays</div>
Australian Walking Holidays specialises in small group guided walking adventures. Since 1982 we have been guiding small groups of travellers on Australia's finest walks across our tropical, coastal or red centre landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GCT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Canadian Trails"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Canadian Trails</div>
Great Canadian Trails specialises in active holidays in Canada. With both guided and supported self-guided options available, our unique itineraries draw upon some of Canada's most inspiring parks, trails and landscapes from coast to coast.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/HUM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Humac Challenge"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Huma Charity Challenge</div>
Huma enables those with adventurous spirits to challenge themselves and make a difference for a cause close to their heart. Travel, fundraise and meet life-long friends on one of Huma's meaningful and unique challenges around the world.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TAS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Tasmania Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Tasmanian Expeditions</div>
Tasmanian Expeditions is the most experienced operator of treks and adventure travel holidays in Tasmania. We own and operate the most comprehensive range of adventure holidays available across Tasmania's varied landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/UTX-new.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Utracks"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>UTracks</div>
UTracks are the active European holiday specialists. Whether you prefer cycling or walking, 2-star or 4-star, small groups or self guided, land, river or sea – UTracks can help you to explore Europe exactly the way you want.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WYA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions Schools"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions Schools</div>
World Expeditions Schools is our specialist division dedicated to organising tailor made overseas school group adventures. Specialists in Service Learning projects, choose from more destinations than any other school group provider.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/YOM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Yomads"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Yomads</div>
Yomads offers adventures for the 20s and 30s on six continents. Designed as a way to bring young and likeminded travellers together, Yomads caters to those interested in lightly structured and active trips that allow freedom to roam and explore.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ACT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Cycle Tours"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Cycle Tours</div>
Australian Cycle Tours specialises in high quality self guided and guided cycling experiences in a selection of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WEX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions</div>
The pioneers of original, worldwide adventure travel holidays since 1975
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TJX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Trail Journeys"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Trail Journeys</div>
Self-guided cycling experts on New Zealand's Otago Rail Trail and more
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/BMAC.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Blue Mountains Adventure Company"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Blue Mountains Adventure Company</div>
The original Blue Mountains canyoning, hiking, climbing and abseiling experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GWNZ.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Walks of New Zealand"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Walks of New Zealand</div>
Explore New Zealand's most spectacular wilderness regions with the self-guided hiking experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/NAA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="North America Active"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>North America Active</div>
USA Canada hiking & cycling tour specialists, choose from self-guided or guided trips