Ed Viesturs’ No Shortcuts to the Top | a book review
On May 12, 2005, high-altitude mountaineer Ed Viesturs finally summited Annapurna, the tenth highest mountain in the world. It was probably one of his most memorable climbs since this particular massif has denied him the summit twice in the past.
On that fateful day too, Viesturs became the first American to climb all fourteen of the world’s eight-thousander mountain peaks – Everest, K2, Annapurna and 11 others that are scattered all over the Himalayan mountain ranges. But what’s particularly remarkable and mind-blowing with his feat is that he climbed all of them without any supplemental oxygen.
He joins a very elite group of like-minded mountaineers who climb mountains only “by fair means” – a principle championed by the legendary Reinhold Messner, the first person to pull-off such remarkable display of discipline, strength and will back in 1986.
Like Messner, Ed also wanted ‘to test his skills and natural abilities on the mountain’s terms and not his own.’ This climbing ethic best explains the title of his autobiography – No Shortcuts to the Top. In here he shares his incredible journey, from his very first eight-thousander all the way to Annapurna. Needless to say that it was one that was fraught with joy and sorrow, and riddled with various successes and a few setbacks in between.
I won’t be surprised to see books like this ending up in a climbing enthusiast’s library as there are valuable and practical advices that he or she can pick-up here. An example is Ed’s now famous mantra/quote – “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory” which is a sobering and life-saving reminder especially for those who ‘conquer’ mountains with misplaced zeal.
But for everyone else, you might still find No Shortcuts to the Top an engrossing read. Intertwined with the adventure narratives are some of Ed’s interesting personal life stories that have contributed in pushing him to climb one eight-thousander after the other.