The Will to Climb: Obsession and Commitment and the Quest to Climb Annapurna--the World's Deadliest Peak
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The bestselling author of No Shortcuts to the Top and K2 chronicles his three attempts to climb the world's tenth-highest and statistically deadliest peak, Annapurna in the Himalaya, while exploring the dramatic and tragic history of others who have made -- or attempted – the ascent, and what these exploits teach us about facing life's greatest challenges.
As a high school student in the flatlands of Rockford, Illinois, where the highest objects on the horizon were water towers, Ed Viesturs read and was captivated by the French climber Maurice Herzog's famous and grisly account of the first ascent of Annapurna in 1950. When he began his own campaign to climb the world's 14 highest peaks in the late 1980s, Viesturs looked forward with trepidation to undertaking Annapurna himself. Two failures to summit in 2000 and 2002 made Annapurna his nemesis. His successful 2005 ascent was the triumphant capstone of his climbing quest. In The Will To Climb Viesturs brings the extraordinary challenges of Annapurna to vivid life through edge-of-your-seat accounts of the greatest climbs in the mountain’s history, and of his own failed attempts and eventual success. In the process he ponders what Annapurna reveals about some of our most fundamental moral and spiritual questions--questions, he believe, that we need to answer to lead our lives well.
"Of all fourteen of the world's highest mountains, which I climbed between 1989 and 2005," writes Viesturs, "the one that came the closest to defeating my best efforts was Annapurna.” Although it was the first 8,000-meter peak to be climbed, Annapurna is not as well known as the world's highest mountain, Everest, or second highest, K2. But as Viesturs argues, Annapurna, while not technically the most difficult of the 8,000ers, is the most daunting because it has no route--no ridge or face on any side of the mountain--that is relatively free of what climbers call "objective danger"—the threat of avalanches, above all, but also of collapsing seracs (huge ice blocks), falling rocks, and crevasses. Since its first ascent in 1950, Annapurna has been climbed by more than 130 people, but 53 have died trying. This high fatality rate makes Annapurna the most dangerous of the 8,000-meter peaks.
Viesturs and co-author David Roberts chronicle Ed's three attempts to climb Annapurna, as well as the attempts of others, from the two French climbers who made the landmark first ascent of Annapurna on June 3, 1950, through the daring and tragic campaigns of such world-class mountaineers as Reinhold Messner and Anatoli Boukreev. Viesturs's accounts and analyses of these extraordinary adventures serve as a point of departure for his exploration of themes vividly illustrated by Annapurna expeditions, including obsession and commitment, fear and fulfillment, failure and triumph--issues that have been neglected in the otherwise very rich literature of mountaineering, and that can inform the lives and actions of everyone.
expedition. That’s far more trips to the Himalaya and Karakoram than I’ve shared with anyone else. There was a slight language barrier between us at the beginning, but year after year, Veikka’s English got better. (Needless to say, I never attempted to master Finnish!) The reason I kept going back time and again with Veikka was that both temperamentally and in terms of climbing skills, we meshed almost perfectly. The only year during that decade that we didn’t climb together was 2003. That
attempted anywhere in the Himalaya or the Karakoram. Staring at the image in a color slide sent to him by David Cox, which he had projected onto his living room wall, Bonington thought, “It was like four different alpine faces piled one on top of the other—but what a line! Hard, uncompromising, positive all the way up.” Six of the seven teammates Bonington chose for the expedition were friends he had climbed with and learned to trust on the small crags of Britain or on big routes in the Alps. In
Instead, I took it out on my partner in my diary. Poor Veikka! When I look back on what I wrote about him that spring, I cringe—especially in light of what we learned after the expedition. Excerpts: Veikka offered to make platform [in the snow] if I erected tent—OK. He did a shitty job with platform. We put up tent, got inside—sloping, uneven, not big enough. I was a bit steamed—make a decent base! No cooking for breakfast although I made a pot of water last night that VG could have melted (it
bamboo with a small ribbon attached to its head. Its ostensible purpose was simply to mark the return route, but for him it had a powerful, almost symbolic meaning. As he later wrote in Prisonnier, I have had a lot of different feelings in the Himalaya, but I think I had never been more affected than at the moment when, for the last time, I turned my head forward and left that fragile bamboo stake behind me.… In that second, I had the reflection, “Here, truly, you are entering another world.” To
needed the aid of the Kazakh climber Denis Urubko and me to get back to camp. It turned out that J.-C. was suffering from the preliminary stages of pulmonary edema, even though he’d never before had any kind of mountain sickness. For Anatoli, the tragedy of losing Bashkirov was one more reminder of the stern indifference of the mountains, and of the necessity to guard against all the things that can go wrong there. High-altitude mountaineering is the most dangerous kind of sport; it has the