Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Himalayan Quest, by Ed Viesturs

Ed Viesturs and Peter Potterfield bring Viesturs' 8000-meter peak journey to life with photographs in their Himalayan Quest. The book was actually released a couple years before Viesturs completed his goal, so though he includes pictures from expeditions to all fourteen peaks, he had yet to reach the summits of Nanga Parbat and Annapurna. It actually makes a great supplement to Viesturs' No Shortcuts to the Top, which has plenty of text, but few pictures. It's too bad these two works weren't woven together into a single volume! The introduction, by David Breashears (see his High Exposure), talks about their professional relationship, gives a brief bio of Viesturs, and complements his safety mantra. The authors introduce their book as a collection of incidental, rather than artistic photographs, meant to take the reader along on his journey rather than exhibit his photographic skill. Regardless, many of the photographs are well-taken, and he achieves his journalistic aim. I appreciated his relatively balanced coverage of the peaks and his introductions to each of the chapters that provide an outline of his climbs.

Just as Viesturs has spent more time on Mount Everest than any other 8000-er, most of the photographs cover his Everest climbs. My second reading of this book made me realize for the first time just how well Viesturs knows Everest. He has visited all three faces, and has climbed on the North Face, the Great Couloir, the North Ridge, and the South Col routes. I'm impressed that even before his close call on K2 in 1992, he chose to turn around before any serious climbing on the Kangshung Face. His Everest photographs, therefore, cover a range of the mountain, and his long experience on the mountain has helped him pick appropriate documentary photos for the uninitiated Everest reader, such as photos of the South Col, the ridgeline between the South and Main summits, the Khumbu Icefall, and the iconic perspective from the lower reaches of Pumori. I especially liked the photo taken from Lhotse (by Rob Hall) of Viesturs nearly at the summit, with the Southeast Ridge of Everest in the background, and his photo from (I think) Khartse of the Kangshung Face and Northeast Ridge. I'm a little curious about the publication date of this book---whether Viesturs perhaps had worked out a book deal with the intention of having finished his climbs, or whether perhaps this book was released to work up some publicity for his final climbs. It seems strange to me that it came out when he was nearly done. He did, however, release a second edition after he completed Nanga Parbat and Annapurna.

This post is a revision and expansion of an early entry, which can be found here.

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