Saturday, November 9, 2013

Man Vs. The Mountain

The Mountain: My Time on Everest – Ed Viesturs with David Roberts (Touchstone Books)

Incredible. Legendary. Super-human. These and many other adjectives are used to describe individuals and their feats on a nearly daily basis. When it comes to athletic endeavors those words are often overused and more often than not misused.

In the case of the feats of mountaineer Ed Viesturs those words are rightly used and yet somehow fall short of the mark. Viesturs is the first American climber to reach the summit of the world’s 14 mountains that reach above 8000 meters without the use of supplemental, bottled oxygen; a feat so amazing that he should easily be included in any conversation about who are the all time greatest athletes.

Viesturs and writing partner David Roberts look back and recount the nearly two years of his life he spent endeavoring to reach the summit of the most mythologized mountain in the world, Mount Everest. While Viesturs has written about Everest in the past, in The Mountain: My Time on Everest he details and laments not only the times he reached the top of the highest peak, but also the times he was stymied or simply walked away from summit attempts due to unsafe circumstances on the way to the top of world.

It is that iron grip on rationality that separates Viesturs from so many others that write about climbing to the top of the world with some romantic notion of man conquering adversity and nature. Viesturs has reckoned with that challenge, possibly more than any other climbers, and yet has treated those confrontations with an abiding respect not only for the challenges of the mountain, but for the lives that have been lost in pursuit of the summit.

In conversation with Viesturs a few years back he expressed that soft-spoken respect and in the book’s epilogue he bids the mountain a fond farewell, while expressing concern that some may have begun to treat climbing Everest as a trip to a high end amusement park and the danger that that attitude presents.

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