Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No Shortcuts to the Top

I have just completed Ed Viesturs book No Shortcuts to the Summit.  Not only is the author a fellow University of Washington graduate, but he is the first American to climb the world's fourteen 8000 meter peaks without the aid of bottled oxygen.  While this is a noteworthy achievement, it is understanding his climbing philosophy that interested me.  This is a climber who still has all of his fingers and toes, has not suffered from pulmonary or cerebral edema, or lost a climbing partner while climbing.  Before you say that luck as the major explanation, consider that he has turned away from one of those 8000 meter peaks ten times.  Four of those were within 350 vertical feet of the summit.  I may not be interested high altitude climbing, but l sure like to know how he decides whether to continue climbing.

It seems the most important aspect of the author's outlook is an ability to hear and respect his instincts.  Easier to say than to do, this represents to me the opportunity of personal growth that climbing offers.  I also noticed how Viesturs credited years of guiding for Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated as instrumental in his climbing approach.  He learned from people who had been climbing longer than him.  More important than teaching him skills, they taught him to respect the mountains.  Guiding also taught him to constantly evaluate and prepare for conditions that could affect the safety of his clients.

My respect for the author's approach to climbing allows me, as a Husky, to forgive him for getting his doctorate in Veterinarian Science from Washington State University.

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