The Vast Unknown: America's First Ascent of Everest

The Vast Unknown: America's First Ascent of Everest

by Broughton Coburn


$23.40 $26.00 Save 10% Current price is $23.4, Original price is $26. You Save 10%.


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 Details

ISBN-13: 9780307887146
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 04/30/2013
Pages: 320
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

Preface xiii

Map xvi

Prologue 1

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

Afterword 245

Acknowledgments 255

Notes 261

Further Reading and References 283

Index 287

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Vast Unknown: America's First Ascent of Everest 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent new look at the 63 expedition. Makes me wish I could have climbed with Willie Unsoeld.