Sunday, May 18, 2014

"The Mountain: My Time On Everest" by Ed Viesturs

* * * * *

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Second Edition edition (October 8, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451694734

Although not exactly in my normally preferred reading genres, mountaineering has always intrigued me. I had vague aspirations in my younger year of climbing mountains, but as age advanced, my hopes to ever actually do it became fainter and fainter - eventually evaporating as a cloud on a summer's day. I do still enjoy reading about climbing though. I stopped for awhile after the 1996 tragedy. I have to agree with the Sherpas that were there at that time - mountains have spirits and become displeased with men/women and their ambitions at times. Perhaps that has something to do with my own Buddhist beliefs.

As well as a gifted mountaineer and one of the most celebrated high a;altitude climbers in the world, , Ed Viesturs is also a rather good writer, and I am finding that I am enjoying reading more of his books after I finished reading this book. 

He writes with clarity;  his words are economical, but they mange to convey the lure and the threats that climbing this legendary mountain exerts on it's acolytes. He does mention the tragedies of the 1996 season, but not in detail as there have been so many books written about that sad time by both himself and other members of the teams. Perhaps it is Jon Krackauer's "Into Thin Air" that most people seem to have read abut that pre-monsoon climbing season.

What I admire most about Mr. Viesturs is his pragmatism and his unalterable , fundamental, belief that that summiting is only half the journey. You have to have enough juice left in you to get back down.  I think he says that summiting is optional, getting down is mandatory. Best of all he follows his own rules, which has probably been what has always brought him home to his family. I have respect for his will, his abilities, and for his "sticking" to his own mountaineering philosophy.

This book provides a lot of background on high altitude climbing on Everest from time of Mallory in 1924. You will learn a lot abut the great high altitude mountaineers that stretched their endurance and climbed Mount Everest by almost unimaginably difficult alternate routes, men who challenged the mountain in an unheard of winter ascent and received little more for this feat that a footnote in Everest lore. This book is inspiring, and it goes a long way to explaining why this particular mountain consumes the drams of the ambitious and saps the reason from the most reasonable of minds. I did not want to stop reading - but I am now reading Ed Viesturs book about K2 with equal enthusiasm. Well done! 

I wonder what effect this year's (2014) April 27th avalanche disaster on Mt. Everest will have on future climbing excursions. Will it change the way people climb this goddess mountain at all?


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