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NO SWEAT

The top 14 list within his gasp

Himalayan Quest Ed Viesturs on the 8,000 Meter Giants Ed Viesturs, Peter Potterfield National Geographic, 2003; $32

September 23, 2003|Joe Robinson

Pulling out a camera and pointing it usually isn't much of a workout, but at 28,000 feet, when lungs are gasping for the tiniest wisp of oxygen, it might as well be a barbell.

Ed Viesturs, one of America's strongest climbers, is up to the challenge, taking us for a rare peek inside a realm that only a mountaineer of his stature could enter.

It's a stunning chronicle of life in the Death Zone above 26,000 feet, as he attempts to become the first American to climb the world's 8,000-meter (26,400 feet) peaks, of which there are 14.

So far, Viesturs has climbed 13 of them, from Everest to K2 (without supplemental oxygen, so he doesn't have an unfair advantage over a defenseless summit).

He recounts those conquests with images that capture the epic scale and nerve that put him and fellow Gore-Texed fleas in spots no human should be able to cling to.

Besides the colossal majesty of alpenglowing spires, it's the sheer verticality of the journey that comes across here.

Viesturs drapes us on the side of impossibly steep slopes and astraddle summits as thin as sawhorses, but there's no bravado.

His feats, and photos, do the talking, in determination and awe of the highest order.

-- Joe Robinson

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