Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld’s legendary first ascent of Mount Everest's West Ridge. Not just climbing a mountain, the 1963 expedition was a rebuilding of American confidence in the midst of the Cold War. Jim Whittaker actually is credited with the first ascent by an American, but he ascended via route that had already been climbed -- Hornbein and Unsoeld pushed up via a route they had never seen before.
Broughton Coburn's The Vast Unknown: America's First Ascent of Everest (New York, NY: 2013) is the story of the team, its frictions, adventures, and successes, set in the history that was unfolding at that time. Through and deeply immersive, this is a great read for mountaineering and history buffs alike. I won't give away the amazing twist revealed, but will say that it includes an audacious CIA plan. Intrigued?
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes -- all opinions are my own.
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