This gripping and triumphant memoir follows a living legend of extreme mountaineering as he makes his assault on history, one 8,000-meter summit at a time. For eighteen years Ed Viesturs pursued climbing's holy grail: to stand atop the world's fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, without the aid of bottled oxygen. ButNo Shortcuts to the Topis as much about the man who would become the first American to achieve that goal as it is about his stunning quest. As Viesturs recounts the stories of his most harrowing climbs, he reveals a man torn between the flat, safe world he and his loved ones share and the majestic and deadly places where only he can go. A preternaturally cautious climber who once turned back 300 feet from the top of Everest but who would not shrink from a peak (Annapurna) known to claim the life of one climber for every two who reached its summit, Viesturs lives by an unyielding motto, "Reaching the summit is optional.
In the opening scene of Viesturs's memoir of his quest to become the first American to climb the 14 mountains in the world higher than 8,000 meters, he and a friend nearly get thrown off the face of K2 when they're caught in an avalanche. It's one of the few moments in the story when his life genuinely seems at risk, as his intense focus on safety is generally successful. "Getting to the top is optional," he warns. "Getting down is mandatory." That lesson comes through most forcefully when Viesturs recounts how he almost attempted to reach the summit at Everest the day before the group Jon Krakauer wrote about in Into Thin Air, but backed out because it just didn't feel right. His expertise adds a compelling eyewitness perspective to those tragic events, but the main focus is clearly on Viesturs and his self-imposed "Endeavor 8000." From his earliest climbs on the peaks of the Pacific Northwest to his final climb up the Himalayan mountain of Annapurna, Viesturs offers testimony to the sacrifices (personal and professional) in giving your life over to a dream, as well as the thrill of seeing it through. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 16, 2006
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Excerpt from No Shortcuts to the Top by David Roberts
At last things seemed to be going our way. Inside our Camp III tent, at 24,300 feet, Scott Fischer and I crawled into our sleeping bags and turned off our headlamps. The next day, we planned to climb up to Camp IV, at 26,000 feet. On the day after, we would get up in the middle of the night, put on all our clothing, grab our gear and a little food, and set off for the summit of K2, at 28,250 feet the second-highest mountain in the world. From Camp IV, the 2,250 vertical feet of snow, ice, and rock that would stretch between us and the top could take as long as twelve hours to climb, since neither Scott nor I was using supplemental oxygen. We had agreed that if we hadn't reached the summit by two P.M., we'd turn around ' no matter what. It was the evening of August 3, 1992. Fifty-four days earlier, we had started our hike in to base camp on the Baltoro Glacier, which we had reached on June 21. Before the trip, even in my most pessimistic scenario I had never imagined that it could take us more than six weeks just to get in position for a summit push. But this expedition had seemed jinxed from the start ' by hideous weather, by minor but consequential accidents, by an almost chaotic state of disorganization within our team.
As usual in the midst of a several-day summit push at high altitude, Scott and I were too keyed up to fall asleep. We tossed and turned in our sleeping bags. Then suddenly, around ten P.M., the radio in our tent crackled to life. I turned on my headlamp, grabbed the walkie-talkie, and listened intently. The voice on the radio was that of Thor Kieser, another American, calling from Camp IV, 1,700 feet above us. "Hey, guys," Thor blurted out, his voice tense with alarm. "Chantal and Alex aren't back. I don't know where they are."
I sighed in pure frustration. In the beam of my headlamp, I saw a kindred expression on Scott's face. Without exchanging a word, we knew what this meant. Our summit push was now on indefinite hold. Instead of moving up to Camp IV to get into position, the next day we would find ourselves caught up in a search ' and possibly a rescue. The jinx was alive and well.
On August 3, as Scott and I had made the long haul from base camp up to Camp III (a grueling 7,000 feet of altitude gain), Thor Kieser, Chantal Mauduit, and Aleksei Nikiforov had gone for the summit from Camp IV. Chantal, a very ambitious French alpinist, had originally been part of a Swiss team independent from ours. When all of her partners had thrown in the towel on the mountain and left for home, she had stayed on (illegally, in terms of the permit system) and in effect grafted herself onto our group. She was now the only woman on the mountain. Aleksei ' or Alex, as we called him ' was a Ukrainian member of the Russian quintet that made up the core of our team.
That morning, Alex and Thor had set out at five-thirty A.M., Chantal not until seven. These starting times were much later than Scott and I would have been comfortable with, but the threesome had been delayed because of high winds. Remarkably, climbing without bottled oxygen, Chantal caught up with the men and surged past them. Struggling in the thin air, Thor turned back a few hundred feet below the summit, unwilling to get caught out in the dark. Chantal summited at five P.M., becoming only the fourth woman ever to climb K2. Alex topped out only after dark, at seven P.M.