{ePUB} No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest PeaksAutor Ed Viesturs – Noituisong.com

No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks CHAPTER SelfArrestAt last things seemed to be going our way Inside our Camp III tent, at , feet, Scott Fischer and I crawled into our sleeping bags and turned off our headlamps The next day, we planned to climb up to Camp IV, at , feet On the day after, we would get up in the middle of the night, put on all our clothing, grab our gear and a little food, and set off for the summit of K, at , feet the second highest mountain in the world From Camp IV, the , vertical feet of snow, ice, and rock that would stretch between us and the top could take as long as twelve hours to climb, since neither Scott nor I was using supplemental oxygen We had agreed that if we hadnt reached the summit by two PM wed turn aroundno matter what It was the evening of August ,Fifty four days earlier, we had started our hike in to base camp on the Baltoro Glacier, which we had reached on JuneBefore the trip, even in my most pessimistic scenario I had never imagined that it could take usthan six weeks just to get in position for a summit push But this expedition had seemed jinxed from the startby hideous weather, by minor but consequential accidents, by an almost chaotic state of disorganization within our teamAs usual in the midst of a several day summit push at high altitude, Scott and I were too keyed up to fall asleep We tossed and turned in our sleeping bags Then suddenly, around ten PM the radio in our tent crackled to life I turned on my headlamp, grabbed the walkietalkie, and listened intently The voice on the radio was that of Thor Kieser, another American, calling from Camp IV feet above us Hey, guys, Thor blurted out, his voice tense with alarm Chantal and Alex arent back I dont know where they areI sighed in pure frustration In the beam of my headlamp, I saw a kindred expression on Scotts face Without exchanging a word, we knew what this meant Our summit push was now on indefinite hold Instead of moving up to Camp IV to get into position, the next day we would find ourselves caught up in a searchand possibly a rescue The jinx was alive and wellOn August , as Scott and I had made the long haul from base camp up to Camp III a grueling , feet of altitude gain , Thor Kieser, Chantal Mauduit, and Aleksei Nikiforov had gone for the summit from Camp IV Chantal, a very ambitious French alpinist, had originally been part of a Swiss team independent from ours When all of her partners had thrown in the towel on the mountain and left for home, she had stayed on illegally, in terms of the permit system and in effect grafted herself onto our group She was now the only woman on the mountain Alekseior Alex, as we called himwas a Ukrainian member of the Russian quintet that made up the core of our teamThat morning, Alex and Thor had set out at fivethirty am Chantal not until seven These starting times were much later than Scott and I would have been comfortable with, but the threesome had been delayed because of no shortcuts to the top high winds Remarkably, climbing without bottled oxygen, Chantal caught up with the men and surged past them Struggling in the thin air, Thor turned back a few hundred feet below the summit, unwilling to get caught out in the dark Chantal summited at five pm becoming only the fourth woman ever to climb K Alex topped out only after dark, at seven pmThe proverbial two pm turn around time isnt an ironclad rule on K or on Everest, for that matter , but to reach the summit as late as Chantal and Alex did was asking for trouble And trouble had now arrived On the morning of August , as Scott and I readied ourselves for the search and or rescue mission that would cancel our own summit bid, we got another radio call from Thor The two missing climbers had finally showed up at Camp IV, at seven in the morning, but they were in really bad shape Chantal had been afraid to push her descent in the night and had bivouacked in the open at , feet Three hours later, Alex had found her and talked her into continuing the descent with himpossibly saving her lifeStaggering through the night, the pair had managed to stay on route no mean feat in the dark, given the confusing topography of Ks domeshaped summit But by the time they reached the tents at Camp IV, Chantal was suffering from snow blindness, a painful condition caused by leaving your goggles off for too long, even in cloudy weather Ultraviolet rays burn the cornea, temporarily robbing you of your vision Chantal was also utterly exhausted, and she thought she had frostbitten feet In only marginally better shape, but determined to get down as fast as possible, Alex abandoned Chantal to Thors safekeeping and pushed on toward our Camp III He just said, Bye bye and took offThor himself was close to exhaustion from his previous days effort, but on Augusthe gamely set out to shepherd a playedout Chantal down the mountain Its an almost impossible and incredibly dangerous task to get a person in that kind of shape down slopes and ridges that are no childs play for even the freshest climber Thor had scrounged a ten foot hank of rope from somewherethats all he had to belay Chantal with, and maybe to rappelOver the radio to us, Thor had pleaded, Hey, you guys, I might need some help to get her down So Scott and I had made the only conscionable decision to go up and help As we were getting ready, we watched as Alex haltingly worked his way down the slope above, eventually stumbling toward camp We went up a short distance to assist him, then helped him get into one of the tents, where we plied and plied him with liquids, since he was severely dehydrated Meanwhile, surprisingly, he didnt show any concern for ChantalGoing to the summit, both he and Chantal had pushed themselves over the edge, driven themselves to their very limits It happens all the time on the highest mountains, but its kind of ridiculous To make matters worse, on Augustthe snow conditions were atrocious Same with the weather zero visibility Scott and I tried to go, made it up the slope for a couple of hours, then had to turn around and head back to camp We made plans for another attempt the following dayWe were in radio communication with Thor Hed started to bring Chantal down to Camp III, but he only got partway They had to camp right in the middle of a steep slope, almost a bivouac, though Thor had been smart enough to bring a tent with himThe next day, August , Scott and I got up, packed our gear, and started up again, hoping we could meet up with Thor and Chantal and help them back to our camp At some point, we could see them through the mist and clouds, two little dots above It was blowing hard, and little spindrift avalanches were coming down the slope we were climbing Part of it was stuff Thor and Chantal were kicking off from way above, stuff that by the time it got to us was a little bigger But no really big slides Id scrounged a fiftyfoot length of rope, with which Scott and I were tied together, because of the crevasses that riddled the slopeAt one point, Scott was above me Something just didnt feel right I yelled up to Scott, Wait a minute, this is not a good slope It was loaded, ready to avalanche If youve done enough climbing, you can feel the load on a slope I attribute that sense to the years of guiding Id done by that point in my life At that time, Scott hadnt done as much guiding as I hadWe stopped in our tracks I said, Man, lets not get ourselves killed doing this Lets discuss this Scott sat down facing out, looking down at me I figured, if a big spindrift slide comes down now, were going to get washed off the faceI started digging a hole with my ice ax, thinking I might protect myself if a slide came from above After a few moments, I looked up just in time to see Scott engulfed by a wave of powder He disappeared from sight At once I tucked into my hole and anchored myself, lying on top of my ax, the pick dug into the slope Bracing myself for impact, I thought, Here it comes It got dark it got quiet I felt snow wash over my back The lights literally went out I hung on and hung on And then, the avalanche seemed to subside I thought Id saved myself I thought, Wow, my little trick workedBut the fact was, Scott had been blindsided He was tumbling with the snow, getting swept down the face He hurtled past me, out of control Scott was a big guy, maybepounds I weigh The rope came tight Boom There was no way I could hold both of us I got yanked out of my hole, like getting yanked out of bed I knew instantly what had happened Scott was plummeting down the mountain, with me in tow, connected by what should have been our lifeline And there were , vertical feet of cliff below usIf youre caught in an avalanche and careening down the slope, there are several ways of trying to save yourself One of the ways is called a selfarrest The idea is to get your ice ax underneath your body, lie on it with all your weight, hold on to the head, and try to dig the pick into the slope, like a brakeId learned the self arrest when Id started climbing, and as a guide Id taught it to countless clients So the instinct was automatic It ran through my head even as I was getting jerked and pummeled around by the avalanche Number one Never let go of your ax Number two Arrest Arrest Arrest I kept jabbing with the pick of the ax, but the snow beneath me was so dry, the pick just kept slicing through Id reach and dig, reach and digYet I wasnt frantic Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, and it was as if sound had been turned off We probably fell a couple of self arrest hundred feet For whatever reason, Scott couldnt even begin to perform his own self arrestThen, as I was still desperately attempting to get a purchase in the snow with my ice ax, suddenly I stopped A few seconds later, just as I expected, the rope came tight again, with a tremendous jolt But my pick held With my self arrest, Id stopped both of usScott, are you okay I yelled downHis answer was almost comical My nuts are killing me he screamed The leg loops of his waist harness had had the unfortunate effect, when my arrest slammed him to a sudden stop, of jamming his testicles halfway up to his stomach If that was the first thing Scott had to complain about, I knew that hed escapedserious harmYet our roped together plunge in the avalanche had been a really close call If it hadnt been for the fact that two other mountaineers were in desperate straits, theres no way Scott or I would ever have tried to climb in those conditionsMeanwhile, somewhere up above, Thor and Chantal still needed our help urgently with each passing half hour In mountaineering meters, feethas come to signify a magical barrier There are only fourteen peaks in the world that exceed that altitude above sea level, all of them in the Himalaya of Nepal and Tibet or the Karakoram of Pakistan They range from Everest, at , meters , feet down to Shishapangma, at , meters , feetDuring what has often been called the golden age of Himalayan mountaineering, the first ascents of all fourteen were accomplished, beginning with the French on Annapurna inand ending with the Chinese on Shishapangma inThe stamp of the expeditions that waged that fourteen year campaign was typically massivewith tons of supplies, hundreds of porters and Sherpas, and a dozen orprincipal climbersas well as fiercely nationalistic, as the French, Swiss, Germans, Austrians, Italians, British, Americans, Japanese, and Chinese vied to knock off the prizes If any country can be said to have won that competition, it would be Austria, whose leading climbers claimed the first ascents of Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat, and Broad Peaktwomountains than any other nations climbers would bag Given the gear and technique of the day, it was considered cricket to throw all available means into the assault on an ,er There were experts, after all, who doubted that Everest would ever be climbed So teams strung miles of fixed ropes up the slopes of the highest peaks, allowing those tons of gear to be safely ferried from camp to camp They bridged crevasses and short cliffs with metal ladders And they routinely used bottled oxygen to tame the ravages of thin air in the Death Zone above , feet It was long assumed that any attempt to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen would prove fatal Only one of the fourteen ,ers was climbed on the initial attempt Remarkably enough, that was Annapurna, the first of all the fourteen to be ascended, thanks to an utterly brilliant effort spearheaded by the Parisian alpinist Maurice Herzog and three Chamonix guides, Louis Lachenal, Lionel Terray, and Gaston Rbuffat So heroic was the ascent of a single ,er considered that each such deed accrued a seemingly limitless fund of national glory The fiftieth anniversary of the triumph on K inwas recently celebrated in Italy with much pomp and circumstance The first ascent of Everest by the British the year beforenews of which arrived in England at the very moment of Queen Elizabeth IIs coronationhas been called, with no apparent irony, the last great day in the British Empire Sir Edmund Hillary remains the most famous mountaineer in history Alas, hisexperienced partner, the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, does not even rank a close second So hard won were those early successes on the , meter peaks that only two menthe Austrians Hermann Buhl and Kurt Diembergerparticipated inthan a single triumph At the cost of losing several toes to frostbite, Buhl pushed on to the summit of Nanga Parbat in a now legendary solo ascent in , after all his teammates had faltered Diemberger topped out on Dhaulagiri inAnd the two men joined forces on an admirably light, small party first ascent of Broad Peak inOnly eighteen days later, Buhl fell to his death on a neighboring peak when a cornice broke beneath his feet His body has never been foundBy the mids, the most ambitious Himalayan mountaineers were attempting the ,ers by routes that were fartechnically difficult than those followed on the first ascents Difficulty for its own sake became, in fact, the ultimate cachet Meanwhile, the first ascent lines, while not exactly being reduced to the humdrum status of trade routes, were proving less fearsome than the pioneers had found them By , for instance, thirty five different climbers, including the first woman, Junko Tabei from Japan, had successfully climbed Everest by the South Col route opened by Hillary and TenzingEd Viesturs is not merely one of our strongest mountaineers hes also one of the most remarkable Hes demonstrated that its possible to climb the worlds highest peaks without taking reckless chances, and without sacrificing ones honor or integrity He has never hesitated to help other climbers in need, even when it meant putting himself in danger or sacrificing his own opportunity to achieve a summit Ed, simply put, is a genuine American hero Jon KrakauerFrom the drama of the peaks, to the struggle of making a living as a professional climber, to the basic how tos of life at , feet, No Shortcuts to the Top is fascinating reading Aron Ralston, author of Between a Rock and a Hard PlaceEd Viestursthe first American to climb all fourteen , meter peaks without bottled oxygenis an animal A human animal blessed with enormous strength balanced by intelligence, honesty, and a heart of gold And besides, HE IS A NICE GUY This is a great read for those of us who climb, those who want to learn to climb and live to tell about it, and those who like great adventures Jim Whittaker, first American to climb Mount EverestEd Viesturs was an inspiration to me personally and to the Seahawks team inI highly recommend reading this account of one of Americas heroes Mike Holmgren, coach of the Seattle Seahawks


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