In early 2003, a young Wall Street investment banker named Bo Parfet set out to accomplish something very few had done before—climbing the highest mountain on every continent. He was not a professional climber, but what began as a casual interest would soon become a lifelong passion and in just over four years, Bo would overcome the odds and conquer all of the mountains—Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Denali, Vinson Massif, Elbrus, Carstenz Pyramid, Kosciusko, and Everest—with courage, unbridled passion, and determination.
Combining the gripping narrative of Into Thin Air with the adrenaline-fueled drama of Vertical Limit, Die Trying is the incredible story of one man's battle against his own limitations. From dodging avalanches to crossing a ladder over a seemingly bottomless crevasse, to making his way through the Khumbu Icefall and burying a dead teammate at 27, 000 feet, we experience all of the author’s exhilarating, often terrifying climbs first-hand. We travel with him during his near-death experiences when falling into a crevasse in New Zealand and nearly-drowning in crocodile-infested rapids during a canoe race in Belize. And we share the terror of his confrontations with corrupt army officials, cannibalistic tribesmen, and local militia groups. Harrowing and uplifting, Die Trying is a riveting memoir that will inspire all of us to defy the odds and fulfill our dreams.
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About the Author
Bo Parfet (Kalamazoo, MI) was a Postgraduate Research Fellow at the Financial Accounting Standard’s Board, and an Investment Banking Analyst for J.P. Morgan. He summited Kilimanjaro in 2003 and has been climbing ever since.
Richard Buskin (Chicago, IL) is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include the biographies Sheryl Crow: No Fool to This Game and Princess Diana.
Read an Excerpt
I N T R O D U C T I O N
DANGLING IN MIDAIR at the end of a 40-foot rope, looking at a
2,000-foot drop down a craggy mass of mostly vertical rock, I sucked in some air and tried to catch my breath. I’d witnessed death close to the 29,029-foot summit ofMount Everest, been stuck in 70-mile-anhour winds on the side of Aconcagua, struggled with a crippling bout of food poisoning on Kilimanjaro, and slipped into a crevasse on
Vinson Massif. But after somehow ascending more than 16,000 feet to reach a steep, awkwardly inverted wall near the top of Papua New
Guinea’s Carstensz Pyramid, the highest mountain in Australasia, a was faced with an altogether different kind of challenge.
Having already dealt with the elements, Indonesian terrorists a local militia, lurking cannibals, and near starvation to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion, I stared at that intimidating length of granite and, in its rugged gray complexion and skyward trajectory, saw yet another manifestation of the proverbial barrier that I’d faced all my life. As a dyslexic kid with a speech impediment, a had grappled with overwhelming odds to disprove the claims of my teachers and fellow pupils that I’d never graduate from high school. As an adult, I had worked hard to succeed in a mostly literate world and achieve what I’d been assured was impossible.
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Now, swinging beneath a ridge on Carstensz Pyramid, technically my most difficult climb to date, I thought, “You won’t defeat me a you sonofabitch.”
I’VE HEARD PEOPLE describe near-death circumstances with the phrase “I saw my life flash before my eyes,” but I question this.
Anyone who has experienced extreme fear, physical or emotional a would say that each second becomes an eternity, that time slows to a crawl and there’s an absorption of theminutest details. Instead, it’s our everyday lives that flash before us. Our heartbeats, distant noises, and incidents just beyond our field of vision all go unnoticed as the days pass, one rolling into another. But that isn’t the case on the side of a mountain, where there’s a hyperfocus on the tiniest subtleties of wind and temperature and sweat.When you climb, you feel each and every second of being alive, and that is something I have come to crave.
Thanks to expeditions such as that to Carstensz Pyramid, I’ve learned that fear isn’t about wondering how you’ll ever reach the top of the mountain. It’s about the times when you’re gasping for air a attempting to defy gravity, and being thankful for every beat of your heart. That’s what I love about climbing—what it teaches me about myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, as well as the everpresent possibility of death. Not that I value life less than anyone else. On the contrary, I’d say I value it more, and I’ll put it on the line only for what I consider to be the most worthwhile challenges a testing myself in far-flung environments before returning to daily life with a fresh perspective. For me, the entire climbing experience is about feeling reborn.
The vast majority of people have goals: They want to work out;
they’d like to eat healthier food; they have their eye on a new job;
they want to start their own company; they’re trying to become better parents. They want to change, and they want to improve. Yet a while they talk about this, within themselves they usually remain the same, year after year. So, how do you change? One way is to make minor adjustments over the course of a lifetime. Another is the transition that occurs in response to the death or near death of a loved one. And then there are those individuals such as myself who want to change dramatically and relatively quickly. Born with limited ability, we achieve this by saying that we’re sick and tired of living a regular existence, and we step outside the ordinary by knowingly putting ourselves in life-threatening situations, facing adversity like we’ve never done before.
No doubt about it, during a three-month climbing expedition that forces me to learn something new (and think about what I’ve learned)
every day, I change for the better and move beyond the set of skills with which I began the challenge. For me, my freedom is worth more than a salary.
Still, while some people believe that divinity and immortality await those who reach the summit, I can’t say I’ve ever aspired to those lofty attributes. The truth is, I just thought that hauling myself up the side of a mountain might be a good way of attracting girls.
Little did I realize that, in the process of trying to climb that mountain,
I’d sometimes spend months without showering, risk losing fingers to frostbite, see my body wither at high altitudes, and share a tent with five other guys.
My grand aspirations as an international man of mystery were shattered early, as were any notions of my returning from a mountain as some sort of shaman, imparting answers to humanity’s greatest questions. Among the Dalai Lama’s “Instructions for Life” is one that states, “Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.” a love that line, but unfortunately, I’m a far cry from the man who wrote it. Instead, I’m just an ordinary guy who was blessed with the opportunity to undertake an extraordinary journey of exploration and self-discovery—my quest to climb the Seven Summits, an exhilarating a sometimes excruciating, ultimately enlightening odyssey that, without endowing me with spiritual transcendence, has provided many unforgettable experiences.
“When man knows how to live dangerously, he is not afraid to die,” William O. Douglas, the Supreme Court’s longest-serving justice a wrote in his adventure memoir Of Men and Mountains. “When he is not afraid to die, he is, strangely, free to live. When he is free to live, he can become bold, courageous, self-reliant.”
This is the story of how I became free to live.
Table of Contents
C O N T E N T S
Author’s Note XI
The Seven Summits XIII
1 Getting to the Mountain 5
2 Kilimanjaro 24
3 Aconcagua 42
4 Up the Creek: A Quick Adventure 67
5 Denali 76
6 Elbrus, First Attempt 97
7 Vinson Massif 113
8 Everest, First Attempt 135
9 Elbrus, Second Attempt . . . Plus Exploits 166
10 Carstensz Pyramid 176
11 Kosciuszko (and Some Major Side Adventures) 193
12 Everest, Second Attempt—On Top of the World 207
Appendix: The Seven Summits Gear List 219