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No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks [Paperback]

Ed Viesturs , David Roberts
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 27 2007
This gripping and triumphant memoir from the author of The Mountain follows a living legend of extreme mountaineering as he makes his assault on history, one 8,000-meter summit at a time.

For eighteen years Ed Viesturs pursued climbing’s holy grail: to stand atop the world’s fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, without the aid of bottled oxygen. But No Shortcuts to the Top is as much about the man who would become the first American to achieve that goal as it is about his stunning quest. As Viesturs recounts the stories of his most harrowing climbs, he reveals a man torn between the flat, safe world he and his loved ones share and the majestic and deadly places where only he can go.

A preternaturally cautious climber who once turned back 300 feet from the top of Everest but who would not shrink from a peak (Annapurna) known to claim the life of one climber for every two who reached its summit, Viesturs lives by an unyielding motto, “Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” It is with this philosophy that he vividly describes fatal errors in judgment made by his fellow climbers as well as a few of his own close calls and gallant rescues. And, for the first time, he details his own pivotal and heroic role in the 1996 Everest disaster made famous in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.

In addition to the raw excitement of Viesturs’s odyssey, No Shortcuts to the Top is leavened with many funny moments revealing the camaraderie between climbers. It is more than the first full account of one of the staggering accomplishments of our time; it is a portrait of a brave and devoted family man and his beliefs that shaped this most perilous and magnificent pursuit.

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From Publishers Weekly

In the opening scene of Viesturs's memoir of his quest to become the first American to climb the 14 mountains in the world higher than 8,000 meters, he and a friend nearly get thrown off the face of K2 when they're caught in an avalanche. It's one of the few moments in the story when his life genuinely seems at risk, as his intense focus on safety is generally successful. "Getting to the top is optional," he warns. "Getting down is mandatory." That lesson comes through most forcefully when Viesturs recounts how he almost attempted to reach the summit at Everest the day before the group Jon Krakauer wrote about in Into Thin Air, but backed out because it just didn't feel right. His expertise adds a compelling eyewitness perspective to those tragic events, but the main focus is clearly on Viesturs and his self-imposed "Endeavor 8000." From his earliest climbs on the peaks of the Pacific Northwest to his final climb up the Himalayan mountain of Annapurna, Viesturs offers testimony to the sacrifices (personal and professional) in giving your life over to a dream, as well as the thrill of seeing it through. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

For nearly two decades Viesturs has been living his dream: to scale the world's 14 tallest peaks--the 8,000ers, as they're known, the 14 mountains taller than 8,000 meters (26,247 feet). All of them are in Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet, and none is easy to conquer. Viesturs, who has stood atop Everest half a dozen times, is among the world's most accomplished climbers, and even he admits it's no picnic dragging yourself up to those heights. With coauthor Roberts, a veteran mountaineering author, Viesturs turns his quest to conquer the 8,000ers into a compelling story of dedication, desperation, danger, derring-do, and devotion (physical and spiritual). Fans of extreme-sport books, especially tales of high adventure, will want to add this one to their collections. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Sept. 4 2011
By Anon.
Format:Paperback
An excellent book, really discussing the high-altitude climbing world from a different angle. Nice to see a book that doesn't go into too much detail about "establishing camp 1, 2, 3, etc..." but more into the detail about other challenges. Excellently written.
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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worked Out in the End Dec 15 2009
Format:Hardcover
Appreciate seller follow-through. Package didn't arrive within delivery window (was substantially delayed), had to contact seller to inform them. They ended up sending a replacement via a 3rd party, so it worked out in the end. Quality of book was passable, but not pristine. Happy in the end.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  136 reviews
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars adventure addiction March 21 2007
By Daniel B. Clendenin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There are 14 mountain peaks in the world that tower to 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), and when Ed Viesturs finally conquered Annapurna, a peak on which one climber dies for every two who try, he joined an elite group of five people who have accomplished that feat without using supplemental oxygen. He's the only American to have done so. It took 18 years and 30 expeditions to the 8,000ers; on 10 trips he turned back short of the summit, once when he was only 100 feet away, exercising extraordinary willpower to follow his "deepest article of faith" that "getting to the top is optional; getting down is mandatory." Not bad for a man who in 1992 at the age of 33 had quit his practice as a vetinarian, was living in a windowless basement apartment, had $25,000 of school debt, and was banging nails as a construction worker to make ends meet.

No Shortcuts is a fun read because it is about more than mountain climbing, which, of course, almost none of his readers will ever attempt. But everyone has their personal Annapurna, as he says in the final pages of the book, whether battling cancer or conquering a fear. Failure, perseverance, passion, patience, risk management, teamwork, self-sacrifice for others, endurance and death are all life lessons that easily emerge from the book. His chapter on the 1996 disasters on Mount Everest when a dozen people died, including world class mountaineers Scott Fischer and Rob Hall, ads his personal perspective to Krakauer's Into Thin Air. In the last few pages Viesturs reflects upon whether his pursuit was selfish, adventure addiction, growing older and realizing he cannot climb like he could twenty years ago, feeling letdown after such a remarkable accomplishment, and how climbing has impacted his marriage. For movie versions see the IMAX film Everest (the highest grossing IMAX movie ever made) or the documentary Everest: The Death Zone.
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Endeavor To Read This Book Oct. 19 2006
By K. C. Huseonica - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
We finally got a copy of the much anticipated Ed Viesturs memoir. Endeavoring to read it cover-to-cover and absorb all the drama, low and high altitude adventure, and very personal insights - we weren't disappointed.

Ed and David Roberts have given the reader a never before look into the climbing and personal life of America's icon of mountain climbing. This includes the mental methods of climbing with various partners, dealing with circumstances outside of the sphere of control, and the decisions impacting self and family.

An added surprise is Ed's opinions on epic climbs by other climbers that were highlighted in media, movies, and books. It certainly gave us reason to review our own opinions of the events.

A valued purchase with b/w photos.
60 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fair memoir of adventure on the high peaks Jan. 21 2007
By Jon Eric Davidson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have followed the adventures of Ed Viesturs and his pursuit of the 14 summits with great interest over the years. Though I am not a mountaineer in the least, it is a subject that I have been fascinated by ever since I was a youngster and saw a presentation by a man who had attempted to climb Everest. I was enthralled by the challenge and the seeming overwhelming and inherent risks. Then, years later, I was fortunate enough to see a presentation by Jon Krakauer during his tour in support of the outstanding "Into Thin Air".

Another reason I followed the mountaineers like Mr. Viesturs and Mr. Krakauer - among others - is that they convey a sense of respect and sanity about climbing these high peaks. In this new era where highly unqualified people are trying to summit peaks like Everest and ethical dilemmas more often overshadow the achievements, it is the reasoned voices of these climbers who can hopefully reverse the trend.

With that said, I was excited to see that Mr. Viesturs published "No Shortcuts To The Top". I ordered it almost as soon as it came out, and couldn't wait for the opportunity to read it.

Mr. Viesturs provides a pretty complete picture of his life to date. He nicely summarized his childhood, but fortunately kept it short to focus in on the things that drew him to climb. He does a great job of relating the sacrifices he had to make - especially financially - in order to pursue this passion. The reader gets to fully understand that climbing is not the type of "hobby" where you can just pick up from your job on a weekend and head to the hills.

More importantly - like Mr. Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" (though perhaps not as dramatically so) - Mr. Viesturs takes the reader with him on his climbs to show the many risks and possibility for death that constantly surround you at those great heights. "No Shortcuts To The Top" does a great job in relating the constant challenge of weighing the desire to push for the summit versus preserving one's safety. Time and again, Mr. Viesturs relates his motto, "Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory." At times, this repetition gets to be a bit annoying, but then you begin to understand that climbers have to repeat that to themselves every time they head up a peak.

Those looking for yet another account of the 1996 tragedy on Everest may be disappointed. I think Mr. Viesturs (rightly) assumes that too much has been written about those days already, and in some cases, the story has been better captured by other authors. So, we do get his perspective as a member of a team following the ill-fated expeditions, but without a great deal of detail.

Probably the most enjoyable part of the story involved his repeated attempts to finally summit Annapurna. Given his relation of the climb and weather that goes with it, this sounds like the most difficult of the 14 highest peaks in the worlds.

As the book progresses, we also see that the "high-adventure" mountain climbing community is a pretty close-knit one. Mr. Viesturs frequently encounters these select few that are challenging the world's highest peaks. Some he is friends with, some are rivals, some have massive egos, and some are very down-to-earth. But all possess the desire to climb and challenge themselves.

A criticism I have of this book is that Mr. Viesturs at times gets very technical in his descriptions of gear and climbing, to the detriment of his recollections of his summits. That seemed to bog the book down in places. Also, while I realize it is important to relate to the reader the type of equipment one is climbing with, he sometimes seemed to go into a little too much detail. I wouldn't have minded so much, except for the fact that he didn't really go into a lot of detail about some of his climbs. So, it almost conveyed a sense that he was leaving things out to talk more about boots, parkas, and tents. I could overlook this penchant for the overly technical and excessive information, but the casual reader would probably get bored with it or become uninterested.

You will note as you read this review that by and large, my review is pretty positive, yet I am rating it with 3 stars. I wrestled with that rating. If I were basing it purely on how I liked it, I would probably give it four stars. But, as I alluded to above, I think the excessive technical lingo and detail would put off the casual reader who may not be quite as enthralled by mountaineering as I am.

I am glad that Mr. Viesturs wrote "No Shortcuts To The Top". I may have hoped for a little more, but it's good to have this account of his successes on the mountains. I hope he continues to be a prominent voice in the mountaineering community for a little "reform" in today's expeditions, so that safety and experience doesn't get lost in the face of deep-pocketed individuals who foolishly believe that money equals a guarantee of an easy transit to the summit of an Everest or other high peak.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful autobiography Nov. 6 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have long dreamed of climbing mountains, and from a young age, I've eagerly devoured books on the subject. Ed Viesturs has always been somebody to look up to (literally) in the climbing world; I was in awe to meet him at a recent book signing and to get a copy of this book.

This is one of the better books I've read about mountaineering. Viesturs talks about the dangers of climbing, and he doesn't gloss over the less-than-pretty parts: he wants you to understand that no matter what you see in the movies, climbing mountains is a serious endeavor, something you need to go into with your eyes wide-open. He tactfully handles such matters as the 1996 Everest disaster, and he is modest about his participation in several high-profile projects. He knows he's done some amazing feats, but he doesn't make you feel as if he's let it go to his head at all. If anything, his book is wonderfully conversational, making it a good read, even if you're just an armchair adventurer.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intimate and Inspirational Dec 18 2006
By Curtis D. Mobley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This retrospective gives an intimate look at one of the all-time greats of Himalayan mountaineering. You get a good feeling for what drives Ed, how he evaluates the risks vs. the rewards of an inherently dangerous activity, and how he views life overall. What doesn't come through adequately (nor could it in any book) is his amazing personality--always humble in spite of his accomplishments, always putting others first if help is needed, always planning for the future in spite of the set back of the day--for that, you just have to climb with Ed and get to know him. (Full disclosure: I was an early climbing partner of Ed, so I may be a bit biased in his favor.) What inspires me most about Ed is not his accomplishments above 8000 m, but that he built a career doing exactly what he loves to do, while so many of us sit in offices doing stuff we hate, just daydreaming of the mountains and adventures unfulfilled. This book could be cataloged under either "mountaineering" or "living life to the max."
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