Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ed Viesturs - No Shortcuts To The Top - Book Review

Ed Viesturs is one of the most accomplished mountain climbers from the United States. After many climbs he decided that he would try to climb all the worlds 8,000 meter peaks, that's 26,250 ft and there are fourteen of them. This is a task that not many have accomplished over all the years people have been climbing.

I've had this book on my shelf for quite a while, but have not had a chance to read it until now. Having kids sure does take a lot of your time, but worth every minute. So let's get into this one.

No Shortcuts to the Top starts telling Ed's story from leaving Rockford, IL heading out to Washington to go to school and working on getting his Vet degree. He discovers climbing and gets hooked. So from chosing the life of working as a vet to climbing mountains for peanuts, Ed chose climbing.

I really like how Ed tells his story and the story of many of his climbs and some of the loses as well as the accomplishments over the years.

I also like the way that through out the book he refers to some of his readers and those who comment as "armchair mountaineers". I don't consiser myself an "armchair mountaineer", but more of a hiker, climber. I have bigger ambitions than I have time or money. I have climbed some smaller peaks and love to spend time out camping in the wilderness. There's a lot more I would like to do like Mount Rainier and many of the Colorado 14ers. Those who have never set foot on a trail and know what it's like to feel the pain in your muscles from climbing are certainly "armchair mountaineers", those who have read all the books published and think they are experts on what happened on Everest in 1996.

I personally love to read the stories myself and enjoy to hear the different stories and the different sides of the stories. I don't really form too many opinions of how people make mistakes or jusdge anyone, because I haven't been to the big peaks. Maybe someday, but for now I will stick to mountains in the US.

So getting back to Ed and his story. I think that Ed has told a great story about his life and what he has accomplished including a little about his family to show the reality of what a toll it can take on a family. When you see how he explains the rescues and the near misses. You realize that the number one priority of climbing is safety and to come home alive.

Ed talks about his working out and all his time being a Mount Rainier guide. I can only imagine what it would take to get in shape for a big mountain climb. Ed seems to be sort of a machine the way he can climb these mountains without suplimental oxygen. The man certainly can acclimate well in the mountains. I personally have worked out pretty hard to go out on 10 mile hikes and climbs and I'm always exhausted when I get to the peak.

It's quite an accomplishment and also a struggle what Ed has been through all these years. Fighting to get sponsorships to go off and climb the 8,000m mountains and having to come back and work on building houses and other stuff to make some money to get by. I can only dream about getting a chance to climb an 8,000m peak. I would never be able to come up with the money especially with a mortgage and family to take care of. Maybe when I was younger, but still maybe some day I will get the chance. For now I will stick to the States.

I think the one thing I would like to have heard more about in the book is the products Ed used and the different equiptment. I know he helped Mountain Hardwear out using equiptment and helping design their stuff as well. I love Mountain Hardwear and have many different products of theirs from a simple Monkey Man Jacket to a Down Jacket, Hiking pants that are designed specifically for backpacking and even some shorts and other stuff. It's all great and I certainly would love to have heard a little more just to test out some product myself.

I wish I had a chance to go out and see Ed when he did some of his speaking engagements. He certainly has accomplished a lot and continues to do more as well as a lot of work for environmental causes. The 2008 Canadian Arctic Trak for Earth Health was the latest thing he's been up to.

Check out Ed's website to see what's going on with him. I don't know how often he updates it, but it's the best way to see what he's up to.

The book is excellent and one of better inside looks and climbing the big peaks.


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