- Jul 28, 2000
- Eugene, OR
- Basic Beliefs
Has Anyone Really Summited the World’s 14 Highest Mountains? - The New York Times
Climb chronicler Eberhard Jurgalski has kept track of high-mountain climbers for some 40 years: 8000ers.com, Statistics, News and Stories about the 14 highest mountains of the worldOnly 44 people have reached the summit of all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, according to the people who chronicle such things.
Or, they now say, maybe no one has.
The difference rides on a timeless question getting a fresh look:
What Is a Summit?
Ed Viesturs believes he knows. He is one of the 44, the only American on the list. In 1993, climbing alone and without supplemental oxygen or ropes, Viesturs reached the “central summit” of Shishapangma, the world’s 14th-highest mountain. Most climbers turn around there, calling it good enough.
Before him was a narrow spine of about 100 meters, a knife-edge of corniced snow with drops to oblivion on both sides. At its end was the mountain’s true summit, a few meters higher in elevation than where he stood.
Too dangerous, Viesturs told himself. He retreated.
“You can let it go, or you can’t let it go,” Viesturs said. “And I was one of those guys where if the last nail in the deck hasn’t been hammered in, it’s not done.”
Eight years later, Viesturs climbed within reach of Shishapangma’s summit again. The ridge looked doable. With a leg on each side — “à cheval” in mountaineering, French for “on horseback” — he shimmied across it. He touched the highest point of Shishapangma and scooted back to relative safety.
Some stopped on Shishapangma’s central summit, not daring to straddle the ridge the way Viesturs did. Some unwittingly went to the wrong spot on Annapurna’s broad top. Some stopped at a pole planted on Dhaulagiri that confused them into thinking it was the summit. Some turned around at a popular selfie-taking spot on Manaslu without scaling the precarious ridge hidden just beyond it.
Few if any of them tried to lie about their accomplishments. They just did not get to the top in every case, Jurgalski and others say. They stopped a few meters short, whether by accident or tradition.