Joe Tasker lies, struck down by a tooth abscess, in a damp, bug-infested room in the Himalaya, wondering if he will be well enough to climb Dunagiri, his first venture to the 'big' mountains. He is there with Dick Renshaw to attempt to make a two-man ascent of the Peak- one of the first true alpine-style expeditions to the Greater Ranges; an attempt that forms part of this tale of adventure in the savage vertical arena of hostile mountains.
Joe Tasker was one of Britain's foremost mountaineers. A pioneer of lightweight mountaineering and a superbly gifted writer, in Savage Arena he vividly describes his participation in the first British winter ascent of the North Face of the Eiger; his first ascent of the West Wall of Changabang with Peter Boardman - considered to be a preposterous plan by the established climbing world; the first ascent of the North Ridge of Kangchenjunga; and his two unsuccessful attempts to climb K2, the second highest mountain in the world.
This is a story of single-minded determination, strength and courage in a pursuit which owes much of its value and compulsion to the risks entailed - risks which often stimulate superlative performances. It is also a story of the stresses, strains and tensions of living in constant anxiety, often with only one other person, for long periods in which one is never far from moments of terror, and of the close and vital human relationships which spring from those circumstances. It is a moving, exciting and inspirational book about the adventuring spirit which seeks endless new climbing challenges to face, alluring problems to solve and difficulties to overcome, for it is not reaching the summit which is important, but the journey to it.