Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks, by Ed Viesturs; page 211

(This book begins here.)

David Breashears asks Viesturs to lead the climbing for his upcoming 1996 Everest IMAX movie. After a lot of prep, the crew heads to Nepal in March to get ready for the climb. The South Col base camp is overrun with expeditions, including the IMAX group, guided expeditions by Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, an international Everest expedition, the South African expedition, a Korean expedition, the solo adventurer Goran Kropp, a Lhotse group, and a guided climb of Pumori. Breashears wants to film Viesturs summitting the mountain without supplemental oxygen, along with Tenzing Norgay's son, Jamling, the Catalan Araceli Segarra, and the Japanese Sumiyo Tsuzuki. They set up for a May 9th summit to get ahead of the crowd, but the monsoon is still blowing on the summit when they arrive at camp III the day previous. They sit it out, and then everybody (else) and their sister head up for a May 10th summit. The rest is history. Chomolungma is angry and eats a three guides and some Adventure Consultants clients on the south, and three Indian climbers on the north. (I'm not sure I should include that last bit about the Indian climbers since Viesturs does not.) Beck Weathers does his frozen zombie walk down the mountain; there's a miraculous helicopter rescue above the Khumbu Ice Fall for Makalu Gau and Weathers; the IMAX crew saves the day. Yea! For those of you new to the medium, there are almost as many books on the 1996 Everest disaster as there were climbers in base camp that spring. Viesturs' is original in that it covers his perspective and talks about his wife, Paula's, role as base camp manager for the IMAX expedition. He also gives a fair view of the Krakauer vs. Boukreev literary showdown. The expedition goes on to make the summit and a great film in the process. The IMAX Everest film was my first introduction to high-altitude mountaineering. Before that, I knew that some British (oops) guy climbed Everest in the 50's and got knighted, but I had no idea people were still doing it. It wasn't until a couple years ago that my armchair addiction began, though, and I still don't know how it happened. Anyway, a year later, Viesturs returns with Breashears to make a NOVA special on high altitude physiology and climb the mountain again by the South Col. Over the following years, he makes it to the top of Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, and Shishapangma. I forgot in my last post that he summitted Cho Oyu somewhere in there. He makes an attempt on Nanga Parbat, and is on his way to Annapurna. For a book titled Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks, he doesn't spend much time on several of them. Manaslu warrants a page, Gasherbum I and II are over in slightly more time. His second, successful, trip to Shishapangma is over almost before it begins. I realize that a three-day ascent deserves considerably less prose than a season-long expedition, but I still feel shortchanged on the peaks that I know less about, and therefore would find more interesting. I suppose the book was meant to be a bestseller, rather than a trade publication. Sounds like we might get some juicy details on Annapurna, post.

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