The Mountain: My Time on Everest

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9781451694734: The Mountain: My Time on Everest

In national bestseller The Mountain, world-renowned climber and bestselling author Ed Viesturs and cowriter David Roberts paint a vivid portrait of obsession, dedication, and human achievement in a true love letter to the world’s highest peak.

In The Mountain, veteran world-class climber and bestselling author Ed Viesturs—the only American to have climbed all fourteen of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks—trains his sights on Mount Everest in richly detailed accounts of expeditions that are by turns personal, harrowing, deadly, and inspiring.

The highest mountain on earth, Everest remains the ultimate goal for serious high-altitude climbers. Viesturs has gone on eleven expeditions to Everest, spending more than two years of his life on the mountain and reaching the summit seven times. No climber today is better poised to survey Everest’s various ascents—both personal and historic. Viesturs sheds light on the fate of Mallory and Irvine, whose 1924 disappearance just 800 feet from the summit remains one of mountaineering’s greatest mysteries, as well as the multiple tragic last days of Rob Hall and Scott Fischer in 1996, the stuff of which Into Thin Air was made.

Informed by the experience of one who has truly been there, The Mountain affords a rare glimpse into that place on earth where Heraclitus’s maxim—“Character is destiny”—is proved time and again.

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Jim Whittaker Reflects on Ed Viesturs

On May 1, 1963 Jim Whittaker became the first American to stand atop Mt. Everest, the planet's highest peak. He later led expeditions to K2 resulting in the first American summit of the world's second-highest mountain--and often considered its most dangerous. In 1990, he returned to Mt. Everest with International Peace Climb, leading a group of mountaineers from the United States, China, and the Soviet Union to the summit--a team that included an up-and-coming climber named Ed Viesturs. For the publication of The Mountain: My Time on Everest, Whittaker looks back at his time with Viesturs, as well as his nearly unparalleled high-altitude abilities.

Ed and I first began jumping crevasses--and pulling people out of them--on the glaciers of Mt. Rainier in Washington State.

At 14,410 feet above sea level, Mt. Rainier is less than half as high as 29,035-foot Mt. Everest, but it has all the snow, ice, rock, storms and altitude necessary to make it a wonderful educator for those who would climb high mountains.

Although a generation apart, Ed and I both worked as guides, taking clients who had never climbed before to the summit. As guides, we learned to watch our rope mates closely, because--tied to us--they could kill us. You didn't want to climb with someone who was NOT afraid of heights. Eventually, separated by almost three decades, we each reached the top of the world.

On May 1, 1963, along with Sherpa Nawang Gombu, I was lucky enough to become the first American to summit Mt. Everest. On May 7, 1990, as a member of the Mt. Everest International Peace Climb, of which I was the leader, Ed reached the highest point on earth, without the use of bottled oxygen. Our team included climbers from the then Soviet Union, China, Tibet and America, joining together for a "summit on the summit," demonstrating what could be achieved through diplomacy and friendship. It was on this climb that I saw Ed exercise his leadership and guiding skills, along with his incredible ability to climb up and down, up and down, and up and up and up.

There are just 14 mountains on earth that stick up into the "Death Zone"--above 8,000 meters--and Mt. Everest, Qomolangma, Goddess Mother of the World is the highest. My friend, Ed Viesturs, has climbed them all without bottled oxygen, the first and only American to do so. Mt. Everest he's done more than once. Much more.

Now, imagine this: While breathing bottled oxygen, I was taking three to four breaths with every step on the upper slopes of Everest, literally panting for hours and hours to the top. Ed has climbed the 14 highest peaks on earth, taking three to four, six to eight, 10 to 12 to 15 breaths to a step as he ascended. He says, "When I get to 15 breaths a step I begin to wonder if I should turn around." Is there any wonder his climbing friends honor him by referring to Ed as "an ANIMAL?"

Yet Ed has retained his humility and is warm and friendly. He has a good sense of humor and he is just a nice person. He is unique. Read his new book (and his several others) and see if you can figure this guy out.

--Jim Whittaker, October 2013

Learn more about Jim Whittaker and the first successful ascent of Mt. Everest in A Life on the Edge, including a new forward by Ed Viesturs.

About the Author:

David Roberts is the author of twenty-four books on mountaineering, adventure, and the history of the American Southwest. His essays and articles have appeared in National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and The Atlantic Monthly, among other publications. He lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.

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