Monday, December 7, 2009

Ed Viesturs - No Shortcuts to the Top

Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks

Ive just finished this great book, the first book I've read for a while that i literally have not been able to put down.

As the sub-heading suggests, it centres on Ed Viesturs attempts on reaching the summits of the highest peaks in the Himalaya and Karakoram, without the aid of oxygen, what he calls, his 'Endeavour 8000'. The book details part of his private life outside of the mountains too but not to a great extent and what he does talk about, is only to explain how it affected his mountaineering life.

He describes his ascents of K2, Everest and Annapurna in great detail which is fascinating, especially for wannabe Himalayan Mountaineers like me. My heart rate increased as he got further and further up the mountains, he didn't reach the summit of all the peaks on the first go so the ending of each account isn't a foregone conclusion before you begin. He does of course get there in the end but not without plenty of drama, and tragedy.

One thing that shocked me was the sheer number of friends he lost in the mountains, i'm not sure what the books death toll is but it would probably put some Stephen King novels to shame.

One thing i loved was the amount of depth he goes into about the logistics of climbing an 8000er, the gear required, the food required, how the money is raised, the training involved, the skills needed etc.

I hadn't heard of Ed Viesturs before reading the book so i had no knowledge or pre-conceptions of him. He comes across though as a thoroughly driven, ambitious mountaineer who never let his ambition allow him to die on the mountains, something he sums up well with his saying, 'getting up is optional, getting down is mandatory'.

Anyone who has read Into Thin Air may also enjoy Viesturs interesting account of the '96 Everest tragedy, he was on the mountain that year making a film about climbing the mountain while the events unfolded.

Overall a fantastic read, im really considering reading it again....

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