Wednesday, August 18, 2010
During my own peak bagging lull, while we're bike riding on weekends in preparation for a week's cycling vacation in Vermont and Northern New York, I've been climbing The Big Ones (mountains over 8000 meters) vicariously. It all started innocently enough when a friend recommended Last of His Kind, the biography of Bradford Washburn, the past director of the Boston Museum of Science, and lifelong climber of Alaskan Mountains.
Next someone lent me Edmund Hillary's account of his 1953 ascent of Mount Everett, View from the Summit: The Remarkable Memoir by the First Person to Conquer Everest. That then inspired me to reread Touching my fathers soul, a book by Tenzing's son who was part of the 1996 IMAX team. I'd read this book a few years ago as it talks a great deal about the Sherpa's, their climbing and culture. Then came Tom Hornbein's Everest: The West Ridge. Which tells not only how Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld climbed Everest via the West Ridge route but also contains great quotes about mountaineering by the great mountaineers.
Then somehow I start 'climbing' K2. The second highest, and some say deadliest mountain. First there was K2: the savage mountain which is about the 1953 expedition. While one of the team members did die, it really is, as all the other mountaineers in the other books say, a book about the 'brotherhood' of climbers. The culture that makes for a great climb, instead of just a summit. K2: Life and Death on the Worlds Most Dangerous Mountain, details all the climbing attempts on the mountain.
No shortcuts to the top is great! It is an honest look at an honest and really competent guy. Sometimes you wonder if he doesn't think a little too highly of himself, but then you realize, he's just relating the facts. It's the facts that speak highly of him. And he has a sense of humor. (Here's a clip of him on The Colbert Report)
And now, not only can I pretend to be in the Tour de France when I ride my bike, I can also pretend to be summitting K2, without oxygen, in 50 mph winds while hiking in the White Mountains.