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Here they are: the K2 cigarettes Matt brought back from Islamabad as a souvenir and a thank-you for sending him to Pakistan on no notice. They’re on my bookshelf at home, sitting next to some travelogues—Shackleton’s South, Thesiger’s Arabian Sands, Bonatti’s The Mountains of My Life—books I’m certain he’d approve of, or at least have an opinion about. Holding the cigarettes now, I can see Matt’s expectant face. He’d tossed the pack softly in my direction. Then he waited for me to get a closer look and grin back. And of course, I laughed. Laughed in the embarrassed way you do when you shouldn’t be laughing. It was August 2008, and we’d just been discussing his hospital bed interview with one of the few survivors of a climbing disaster on K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain. We were trying to figure out precisely how the climber’s partners had died for an article I’d assigned Matt for Men’s Journal, where I was then the editor. It was a thrilling story, but sad, too. So he broke the grim mood with the official cancer stick of this killing peak.

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