Thursday, September 16, 2010

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

(This book begins here.)

Annapurna becomes Viesturs' nemesis. His first attempt on the North Face is wrecked by two weeks of heavy snow. His second attempt, by the grueling East Ridge, is thwarted by frightening conditions halfway up. Two of his teammates drag themselves to the summit and back, however. Viesturs is happy for them, but also happy about his choice to stay behind. They have a hellish time. In between attempt two and three, Viesturs and one of his companions from Annapurna travel to Pakistan to climb Nanga Parbat and to finish Broad Peak. They climb the Diamir Face of Nanga Parbat with a group of Italians who invite them to climb with them, having already set up most of the route. They wait out a storm at the high camp for three days, and make a long climb to the summit and descend in a whiteout that gives them trouble finding the way. Viesturs and his partner head to Broad Peak. At the long summit ridge, his partner has trouble keeping up. After summitting, they skip out on the high camp and head straight down when they realize something is wrong. A pair of helicopters comes to rescue his partner at base camp, and Viesturs gets a free ride back to Skardu in the second, because it had come in case the first had troubles. Only Annapurna is left, but he puts it off a year to return to Everest with David Breashears for more filming. They once again return to the summit via the South Col, this time with Viesturs using supplemental oxygen. Annapurna beckons, and he goes for another North Face attempt. This time the snow is lighter, and the weather cooperates, and he gets up and back in one piece. He becomes the first American to climb the 14 highest mountains in the world. After all the media attention has died down, he's not quite sure what to do with himself. He might return to the 8,000 meter peaks if another film opportunity arose, but he has no personal reason to return. He continues the motivational speaker circuit and representing his sponsors. He sets his sights on shorter, but still interesting mountains and a couple non-mountain adventures.

I wouldn't call this book one the greats, but it is an entertaining read by a hardcore climber who is unimaginably personable. I appreciate Viesturs' conservatism on his climbs. I'm not really of the mind set that climbing any massive peak is worth the dangers (I think partly I read climbing books because I'm intrigued by people who do things I would never do.), but his safety-directed mindset is refreshing. I also find it fascinating to read from a professional's perspective about the commercialization of Everest during the late 80's and early 90's.

Up next, a photographer on the first ascent.

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