The holy grail of mountaineering

To scale a mountain, you have to earn the summit – says mountaineer Ed Viesturs.

Back in may, the curious g wrote about a fascination with mountaineering. I had mentioned Viesturs briefly, but his achievements are legendary. He is the first American to climb all fourteen 8,000 meter (26,000+ feet) peaks, and one of only six people to do it without supplemental oxygen (only for his personal ascents, he uses oxygen when he guides teams).

Mount Everest may be the highest peak at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet), but K2’s 8,611 meters (28,251 feet) have the worst reputation. Viesturs new book, K2: Life & Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain, recounts K2 as the Savage Mountain due to the difficulty of ascent. It has the second highest fatality rate (Annapurna has the first) – for every four climbers who reach the K2 summit, at least one dies. And, the mountain has never been climbed in winter.

In the meat of his book, Viesturs focuses on the six most dramatic seasons in the mountain’s history. He uses his extensive climbing experience to analyze each expedition, and says about his subjects, I “imagine my way into their company, where I can ponder the what-might-have-been of their dilemmas.”

I imagine going into the clouds with him. K2 is on my reading list.

Ed Viesturs, mountaineering, books on climbing

Photo: Adam Jacob Muller from Wikimedia Commons published under the GFDL.

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