I am an armchair adventurer - I love reading these stories about hardship, freezing cold temperatures, dangerous conditions and general misery while I'm wrapped up in a blanket, cozy warm and with a steaming cup of tea nearby (The Deadliest Catch was one of my favorite TV shows). I'm also so very impressed by the author's accomplishment to summit the world's 14 highest peaks - without supplemental oxygen!
This book is not just a blow by blow of his successes and failures on the mountains, but about his life's journey to that point, from being inspired at age 14 to finally reaching his goal at age 46. It's about despite becoming a veterinarian, he was strong enough to walk away because climbing was his true passion - instead of earning a good living working with animals, he spent his time building houses and scrounging for sponsors to pay for his trips to the Himalaya.
One of the best parts was learning what mountaineers do when they're camped on this tiny ledge at 24,000 feet and nature calls, what they wear and eat and how a five pound tent can be the difference between life and death. I've always been curious about that!
For those who enjoyed "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer you'll like this as well. He has a chapter on the 1996 Everest disaster and gives you another perspective on what went wrong.
Here's my favorite passage from the book: "Look, it took me eighteen years to complete a very difficult endeavor. Viewed as a whole, climbing all fourteen 8000ers (referring to peaks that are 8000 meters or higher) would have seemed almost impossible, but I took it one day at a time, one step at a time. I was passionate about what I did, and I never gave up.
"Whatever challenge you have before you can be accomplished in the same fashion--whether it takes a week, two months, or a year. If you look at the challenge as a whole, it may seem insuperable, but if you break it down into tangible steps, it can seem more reasonable, and ultimately achievable."
He's right - I've used that same persistence for my writing career - when I sit down to write, I don't think "I'm going to write a novel." That would scare the adverbs out of me! No, I think, I'm going to write 1000 words - that's my goal and if I get more done then I'm happy.