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527 The Will to Climb
Book Review

Will to Climb

Every mountaineer seems to have one mountain that is his personal nemesis. On each attempt to climb the mountain, insurmountable obstacles appear. Often times the defeat seems to be merely the luck of the draw or in this case no luck of the draw. With each unsuccessful attempt, the will to climb grows. Ed Viesturs new book, "The Will to Climb", examines his attempts to scale Annapurna, one of the fourteen 8,000 meter peaks of the world.

Viesturs begins by telling a history of Annapurna. He naturally starts with the 1950 expedition to Annapurna by the French. The expedition was led by Herzog and his troops were some of the world's greatest mountaineers. The expedition was successful; but not without sacrifice (severe frostbite).

After the ascent of Annapurna, climbers began concentrating on the other 8,000 meter peaks. Viesturs visits other expeditions to other mountains to show trends in mountaineering and to build the characters of Annapurna climbers mentioned in the book. All the historical facts show that Annapurna is one difficult mountain to climb.

Among the key expeditions mentioned in the book are Bonnington's South Face Expedition and the American Women's Expedition. A wealth of famous climbers are also mentioned including Messner, Jerzy Kukuczka, and Anatoli Boukreev. Viesturs examines the success and failures of their climbs. He looks at the risks the climbers were willing to take and the sacrifices that some of the climbers made.

Viesturs also recounts his three attempts on the mountain. His successful attempt in 2005 is reserved for the last chapter of the book titled "My Annapurna."

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I had two minor complaints though. First, the book had too much history and not enough of Viesturs personal accounts of his climbs. I wanted to hear more about his efforts and less about others. The second issue was, the book included personal information about climbers and expeditions that was probably better left unsaid. I know digging into the dark secrets of the past seems fashionable to some; but why? The book stands on it's own merits, I saw no reason to show dirty laundry.

Despite my nick picky complaints, the book is good. Viesturs emphasizes his commitment to safety. The main reason he was on his third attempt to climb Annapurna was his commitment to safety. Twice he felt that the mountain was too dangerous and backed off. Of course, maybe the reason he had an opportunity to plan a third climb was that he chose not to continue on the other two attempts.

Viesturs also has a regular "Joe" quality about him. He doesn't act like Superman. He doesn't wear a cape. He puts his boots on one at a time. Yet, still, you really know that he is a really good safe climber.

It is also very refreshing to hear Viesturs speak so highly of his partners. There is no complaining or blaming.

"The Will to Climb" is a very good book. It would make a great Christmas gift for any adventurer.

Happy Will to Climb trails


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