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Everest: The West Ridge Paperback – July, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

"If we can pull it off," said the climber, referring to a route up Mt. Everest's West Ridge, "it would be the biggest possible thing still to be accomplished in Himalayan mountaineering." To undertake such a route is to understand that failure is not an option; there is no turning back from the West Ridge. In 1963 Thomas Hornbein, the author of Everest: The West Ridge, and his partner Willi Unsoeld committed themselves to such a glory-or-death assault on the world's tallest peak. Their achievement is told within the pages of this book, one of the classic mountaineering sagas of all time. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The classic book is a must-have for any Everest buff’s library. -- Cedar Rapids Gazette, Cedar Rapids, IA

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Mountaineers Books; Reprint edition (July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898866162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898866162
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Cat on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Jon Krakauer's provocative critique of the 1996 storm deaths on Everest aroused in many an insatiable interest in the mountain. For others, like me, who are in this position and who would like to extend their knowledge of the mountain and its climbs further back in history, I recommend Dr. Hornbein's account of his climb and traverse of Everest by the West Ridge. Dr. Hornbein was part of the first American expedition to Everest in the 1960s and, together with Willi Unsoeld, was the first to climb Everest by the west route.
The historical nature of Dr. Hornbein's account is both its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. Because The West Ridge was written in the mid-1960s, its perspective is very different from the post-1996 Everest books, providing insight into the minds, drives, and cultural attitudes of the true mountaineers who "opened" Everest, rather than the "me-too" climbers who have come after. For this and for Hornbein's direct, spare narrative style, Everest: The West Ridge is exciting and well worth the read.
On the other hand, the book suffers from a stoic heroicism which feels dated and which robs the story of some its narrative power. During the climb, Hornbein experienced a dramatic storm high up on Everest's west ridge and later, on the descent after his summit, was forced to spend the night high above the South Col. Although these events are included in the narrative, they are recorded in a such a matter-of-fact fashion that one unfamiliar with the modern Everest literature would not understand Hornbein's incredible feat in surviving these adventures. While a reluctance to describe these events may evidence an admirable modesty, it does not make for the best possible story.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 6, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the story of the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition which made mountaineering history. It saw the first Americans summit Everest via the South Col. It also saw the first climb of Everest by anyone via the West Ridge route, previously believed to be unclimbable.

Not only did Thomas Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld summit Everest via the West Ridge, they traversed the mountain and descended via the South Col route. They were, however, forced to bivouac in the death zone at 28,000 feet without any food, supplemental oxygen, or shelter.

One would think that such a dramatic turn of events high on Everest would be riveting to read. Wrong! Unfortunately, this is the one problem with this book. The story is told in a very dry, dull fashion. It is as if Hornbein were talking about flossing one's teeth rather than about a segment of mountaineering history of which he was an integral part.

Nevertheless, this is a high quality paperback with forty-eight terrific photographs that are sure to delight Everest junkies everywhere. No mountaineering library should be without this book, which recounts with detail one of the most significant climbs in the history of the Himalayas.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
This classic mountaineering volume was written at a time when Himalayan mountaineering was entering a new and exciting phase - a purer seduction of the mountain, where more aesthetic methods and lines of ascent override the basic urge to reach the summit (and nothing else). Tom Hornbein was definitely cast into this new mold, although at the time he was probably not aware of it. This expedition, which was on many occasions threatened with defeat, succeeded in a mountaineering tour de force. Not the ascent by the "yak route", but by pushing a route up one of the most formidable ridges anywhere in the Himalayan chain and traversing the mountain back along the south-east ridge. Without the grit and determination of Tom and Willi, this would have been just another ascent of Everest to add to the ever-growing list. Their dream was borne out in the end. Tom's open and unprepossessing prose is a refreshing change from the pithy accounts of yesteryear, giving the reader more insight into the inner workings, and tensions, of any large mountaineering expedition. A must read for any serious mountaineering scholar.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J. L. Kelly on January 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first read this book in the summer of 1969, and it is anything but dry or boring. Hornbein's matter-of-fact narrative does nothing to diminish the drama and the risk inhering in any attempt on Everest, but especially one in which the climbers descend by a route which is completely new to them. Hornbein also worked very hard to select incredibly beautiful photographs and inspirational quotations from some of the most famous mountaineers of all time. These, combined with the narrative of his own personal odyssey on the West Ridge, make this book into a truly inspirational piece of literature. Those who require sensationalism and hyperbole will not like this book, but those who recognize the drama inhering in any "point of no return" decision to continue going on up will see that no hyperbole is required. The narrative of events is compelling, especially if one has ventured into the high mountains and feels their majesty with both awe and respect--and sometimes terror. For some reason this book changed my life, and those who respond to challenges with the desire to do something worthwhile with their own lives will see in mountaineering a metaphor for every great and risky enterprise.
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