By the author of the New York Times bestselling Everest: Mountain Without Mercy, this chronicle of the iconic first American expedition to Mt. Everest in May 1963 – published to coincide with the climb's 50th anniversary – combines riveting adventure, a perceptive analysis of its dark and terrifying historical context, and revelations about a secret mission that followed.
In the midst of the Cold War, against the backdrop of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the space race with the Soviet Union, and the quagmire of the Vietnam War, a band of iconoclastic, independent-minded American mountaineers set off for Mt. Everest, aiming to restore America's confidence and optimism. Their objective is to reach the summit while conducting scientific research, but which route will they take? Might the Chinese, in a public relations coup, have reached the top ahead of them? And what about another American team, led by the grandson of a President, that nearly bagged the peak in a bootleg attempt a year earlier?
The Vast Unknown is, on one level, a harrowing, character-driven account of the climb itself and its legendary team of alternately inspiring, troubled, and tragic climbers who suffered injuries, a near mutiny, and death on the mountain. It is also an examination of the profound sway the expedition had over the American consciousness and sense of identity during a time when the country was floundering. And it is an investigation of the expedition's little-known outcome: the selection of a team to plant a CIA surveillance device on the Himalayan peak of Nanda Devi, to spy into China where Defense Intelligence learned that nuclear missile testing was underway.
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
BROUGHTON COBURN, author or editor of seven books, including two national bestsellers, has worked in environmental conservation and development projects in the Himalaya for more than two of the past three decades. In addition he has directed projects for the World Bank, World Wildlife Fund, and American Himalayan Foundation.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters ix
Part I Dragons at Play
Chapter 1 A Vertical Playground 13
Chapter 2 From Dartmouth Dorms to Teton Tents 24
Chapter 3 A Distant Vision 31
Chapter 4 Entering the Arena 39
Chapter 5 Acceptance and Invitations 45
Chapter 6 Beyond the Tetons 54
Chapter 7 Scientists and Shrinks 60
Chapter 8 A Trial Run … or Hike 67
Chapter 9 To the Other Side of the Earth 77
Chapter 10 Convergences and Close Calls 85
Chapter 11 Treading a Path Between India and China 96
Chapter 12 Goals and Roles 106
Chapter 13 Intersecting Worlds 112
Chapter 14 Words from on High 122
Part II The Vast Unknown
Chapter 15 Long Live the Crow 135
Chapter 16 Taming the Beast 141
Chapter 17 Uncertainty 150
Chapter 18 Retreat in Victory 161
Chapter 19 Synchronized Climbing 172
Chapter 20 A Wild Idea 181
Chapter 21 A One-Way Round Trip 187
Chapter 22 The Vast Unknown 198
Chapter 23 A Biblical Calm 207
Part III Cherishing Mystery
Chapter 24 The Vigorous Life 217
Chapter 25 The Bliss-Giving Goddess 227
Chapter 26 Transitions 236
Further Reading and References 283
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
More than just a great read, it is also a history lesson. There are all points of view covered here, not just the struggle of the mountaineers up the mountain. What was accomplished in 1963 seems dated with the perspective of 2013 and numbers in the hundreds that reach the top, but Coburn does an excellent job here of explaining it all in a world context. There is a lot more here than just a bunch wanting to "bag a summit". Excellent read!
An excellent new look at the 63 expedition. Makes me wish I could have climbed with Willie Unsoeld.