Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ed Viesturs with David Roberts: The Mountain - My Time on Everest

One of the finds from the Strand Bookstore is this mountaineering book from Ed Viesturs (written together with David Roberts). Viesturs is one of the world's foremost mountaineers and belongs to the small club of climbers to have made it to the top of all 14 of the world's 8000+ meter peaks. He features prominently in many climbing books by other writers as well and I had read about his accomplishments in Jim Curran's book about the K2 (absolutely great, need to review that one soon!) and Greg Child's Thin Air: Encounters in the Himalaya among othersHe has written several other books about his exploits together with Roberts.

The Mountain documents Viesturs' eleven expeditions to Mt. Everest, out of which seven ended with a successful summit bid. Besides his own exploits on the mountain, Viesturs gives a lot of background information and history of the exploration of Mt. Everest. He was present during one of the most dramatic seasons on the mountain in 1996 when 8 people perished after being caught in a storm high up the mountain (probably best known from Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air). 

I have to admit this was not my all time favorite mountaineering book. The book is well written. I like the author's honest and non-pretentious style, especially when he is defending the rights of paying clients to be on the mountain. He also gives his opinions on some controversial developments on the mountain, but something is missing.

Maybe the problem of the book is that its focus is too broad. As a general history of Everest, it does not really work and while it's not meant as such, I wished it would go in to more depth on some of the background information. Early expeditions and new routes are introduced in detail, however. Fitting 11 expeditions, mountaineering history and personal development in 330 pages is pushing the limit. The Mountain probably would have benefited from more length, especially since the writers obviously are skilled in producing prose. All that said, I read it almost in a single sitting.

Read the hardcover edition of 2013 from Touchstone.

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