A veteran mountaineer chronicles his colossal quest to scale the Himalayas’ 14 8,000-meter peaks, including the deadliest, Annapurna.
With the assistance of Roberts (Finding Everett Ruess, 2011, etc.), Viesturs (K2, 2009, etc.) returns with another true account of cliffhanging adventure. Viesturs was inspired by mountain-climbing icon Maurice Herzog’s successful ascent of Annapurna in 1950, which was the first time anyone had reached the summit of that treacherous Himalayan monolith. After conquering most of the harrowing Himalayan range, in 2000 Viesturs finally prepared to take on the intimidating Annapurna. Interspersed throughout his own combative history with the Himalayas’ “8,000ers” are historical accounts of other adventurous souls who’ve attempted to conquer these peaks since the 19th century. The author describes his own attachment to mountain-climbing as “tread[ing] between commitment and obsession,” which is believable enough, since Viesturs certainly doesn’t over-romanticize this obsession. Viesturs describes the successful exploits of the most formidable characters taking part in this survival-of-the-fittest competition, but often the most miraculous accounts are rooted in failure: In particular, French climber Jean-Christophe Lafaille’s incredible 8,000-foot descent from Annapurna with a broken arm and no rope, followed by fellow mountaineer Simone Moro surviving a 2,600-foot tumble down the mountain’s rugged face. Reinhold Messner, often considered the greatest mountaineer ever, was the first to conquer all 14 8,000ers. Though Viesturs’ battle with Annapurna ended on a triumphal note, not every successful mountaineer gains a lasting sense of fulfillment from their achievements in the so-called vertical world. Unfortunately, the author only skims the surface of the psychological aspects that drive a person to scale a 29,000-foot mountain.
Lacks overall depth and scope, but good for vicarious thrill-seeking.