Everest: Alone at the Summit


Every day, the path up the South Col route to the summit of Everest becomes a little more worn by the tread of dozens of package-tour climbers, but few dare to try the East, or Kangshung, Face, a sheer, avalanche-swept wall of snow and ice only first conquered in 1983. Five years later, Stephen Venables intensified the challenge by leading three unknown American climbers up the East Face - this time without oxygen. The question to most climbing experts wasn't whether they would summit, but whether they would ...

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Every day, the path up the South Col route to the summit of Everest becomes a little more worn by the tread of dozens of package-tour climbers, but few dare to try the East, or Kangshung, Face, a sheer, avalanche-swept wall of snow and ice only first conquered in 1983. Five years later, Stephen Venables intensified the challenge by leading three unknown American climbers up the East Face - this time without oxygen. The question to most climbing experts wasn't whether they would summit, but whether they would live. They nearly didn't Everest: Alone at the Summit is Venables' rousing account of one of the greatest feats of twentieth century mountaineering, a triumph over doubt, the elements and the limits of human endurance that has never been repeated. "Climbers or not, all will be interested in this mountaineering thriller of a tiny band pulling off an incredible victory-an account so stirring it will be put down only to obtain a moment's breather." — American Alpine Journal

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Editorial Reviews

In the spring of 1988, the author and three companions embarked on an expedition that would ultimately test the limits of human endurance. Their goal: the summit of Mt. Everest. Their modus operandi: no porters, no bottled oxygen, and a route that included the Kangshung Face, the most formidable part of the world's highest mountain. Apprised of this audacious plan, veteran American alpinist Charles Houston reportedly exclaimed, "Kangshung Face! Four people! You're mad!" Seven weeks after arriving at the base of the massive wall, Venables and Venables alone reached the summit, the first Briton to do so without oxygen. Of course summitting means little if one does not successfully descend, and the author had a problem in that regard. A blizzard slowed him down, and he was forced to spend a night in the open at 28,000 feet—incredible. Obviously he lived to tell his remarkable tale, as did his fellow climbers. Originally published in Britain 12 years ago, Thunder's Mouth Press has reissued this extraordinary account under its Adrenaline Classics imprint, making it available to American readers for the first time. Thank you, Jon Krakauer. Legendary Reinhold Messner gives the book a big thumbs up, and I concur. Supplementing the thrilling narrative is a wealth of dramatic photographs, an extremely helpful selection of maps and diagrams, and several interesting appendices, including an expedition diary, and a historical overview of high altitude climbing sans oxygen. Adventure writing at its most compelling. (Adrenaline). KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Publishers Group West/Thunder'sMouth, 262p, illus, index, 23cm, 00-044297, $14.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Randy M. Brough; Lib. Dir., Franklin P.L., Franklin, NH January 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 1)
Library Journal
British author Venables (Painted Mountains) specializes in alpine-style climbing, in which small numbers of climbers rapidly scale peaks with a minimum of equipment and support. This method differs drastically from the more common siege-style climbs, which rely on larger groups using porters to establish a series of successively higher, well-stocked camps. This work was written immediately after Venables and three other climbers attempted a new route up the most dramatic face of the world's highest mountain without supplemental oxygen. Originally published in England in 1989 as Everest: Kangshung Face, this fast-paced account will appeal to both the armchair adventurer who devoured Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (LJ 4/1/97) and the seasoned mountaineer. Extremely well illustrated and with several appendixes, including a comprehensive history of high-altitude climbs that eschewed supplemental oxygen, this is recommended for all mountaineering/outdoor adventure collections.--Tim Markus, Evergreen State Coll. Lib., Olympia, WA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560252894
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Series: Adrenaline Classics Series
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 1,277,653
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Introduction xi
Maps & Diagrams xv
Chapter 1 After the Storm 1
Chapter 2 From Ocean to Plateau 19
Chapter 3 The Kharta Valley 36
Chapter 4 Langma La 51
Chapter 5 Neverest Buttress 75
Chapter 6 The Crevasse 103
Chapter 7 Snakes and Ladders 122
Chapter 8 South Col 140
Chapter 9 Summit Fever 160
Chapter 10 Escape 187
Chapter 11 A Gentler Spirit 207
Epilogue 223
I Expedition Members 227
II Expedition Diary 229
III Climbing at Extreme Altitude Without Supplementary Oxygen [circa 1988] 234
IV The Expedition Sponsors 247
Acknowledgements 253
Index 255
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2006

    An Engaing Read, Full of Thirlls and Action

    In this book, Stephen Venables recounts his amazing foray into the world of Himalayan Climbing. Their tiny four man team attempts a brand new rout up the most difficult part of Mt. Everest: The Kangshung Face. For months they slave to establish a route up to the top, battling both the altitude and weather. It must feel strange to be on uncharted territory on one of the most commercialized mountains in the world. They establish numerous camps, facing many unexpected obstacles along the way. They encounter huge crevasses, forcing them to create a Tyrolean Traverse, all the while skirting the avalanche prone regions of Lhotse and the Big Al gully. As they are a small team with no Sherpas to carry up bottled oxygen, they must rely on their lungs to extract oxygen gas from the thin air. After weeks they finally reach the previously visited South Col. They are exhausted and spend a day resting before their final summit push. The trip to the top is grueling mentally and physically, as the lack of oxygen causes irrational decisions and mistakes. Venables even stop to take a nap on the summit attempt. He finds himself alone at the top (hence the title) at a remarkably late time of day. He struggles to descend, alone, with no bivouac supplies. The irony is that after the completion of seemingly most difficult part of the climb (the ascent), his greatest challenge lies ahead, with survival itself uncertain. I would highly recommend this book it is both gripping and well written. Venables displays a remarkable aptitude at accurately recounting the harrowing tale, inserting actual diary entries from the climb.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2000

    Engaging and Exciting

    This is a story of an unprecedented climb on the grandest stage in mountaineering. The determination of the four climbers is an inspiration for anyone who has ever dreamed to do something different. Not only did they attempt to climb the world's highest mountain without oxygen, they did it on a brand new route which they themselves had to pioneer. A must read for anyone interested in mountaineering and especially in Mt Everest.

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