Monday, September 20, 2010

Summits: Climbing the Seven Summits Solo, by Robert Mads Anderson; page 91

Anderson is a veteran of the Everest Kangshung Face expedition that put Stephen Venables on the summit. During the expedition he reaches the South Summit and loses some fingertips and toes to frostbite. In 1990, he dedicates himself to reach the tops of the seven summits alone, to explore the cultures surrounding the mountains, and to tell the story of his adventure primarily through photography. A friend will follow him to base camp to video his attempts. The overall presentation of this volume is of a coffee table book, and the prose reflects the attention span of the occasional glance, rather than the through-reader.

He begins with his ascent of Kilimanjaro, does not give his route, but his photographs show that his base camp is in front of the Breach Wall. The photos of the mountain depict the double nature of the upper mountain, half rocky Sahara, half thin-layered glacier. He also includes many photos of the nearby wildlife. On his way out, one of the base camp porters hurts his knee, and he and the other porters take turns carrying him back to civilization, 16 kilometers distant. He takes some time after his trek to visit nearby wildlife refuges.

Kilimanjaro is followed by South America's Aconcagua, which he ascends by the Polish Glacier in a single-day push from camp one. He longs to see a guanaco, the miniature llama native to the area, but has no luck. His photos show a rocky approach, beautiful weather for a summit, and a chance encounter with Phil Ershler, famous mountain guide and another seven-summiter. While in nearby Mendoza, his videographer's equipment and passport are stolen. Perhaps his friend should not have bragged about his camera to his waiter at dinner!

Mount McKinley is next. The approach is a long slog on skis through a crevasse field towing a sled behind, and Anderson says it's best to pray throughout that neither you nor your sled disappear into the earth on the way!  He summits twice in three days, first alone by the Messner Couloir with a return by the West Buttress, and once more with his cameraman friend by an unspecified route. On the mountain, he runs into Sandy Hill Pittman, who will later survive the 1996 Everest disaster. He is impressed by the 1 kg. salmon steaks in the restaurants of Talkeetna.

There follows Mount Kosiuko in Australia. Anderson makes light of his trip, mentioning that he rents a car for the approach and his base camp is a nearby motel. He takes the ski lift nearly to the top, and stops for a coffee in the cafe. Nature gets the better of him, however, and he is turned back by a blizzard, unable to see through the snow which way leads up since the top of the mountain is nearly flat. He returns three days later in better weather for a quick stroll to the summit and some photographs.

Everest tomorrow!

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