Walt Disney had the unique opportunity to bring his heroes to life and live vicariously through them on screen. He also served as a great inspiration to 7 to 12 year olds especially in the late 1950’s when he brought many heroes to the screen like Davy Crockett, Johnny Tremain, Old Yeller, and the Robinson Family who lived in the tree house. After I saw Old Yeller I barked for two weeks until my mom’s whacks on the fanny convinced me that I should abandon this course of action.
I was influenced by WD’s Third Man on the Mountain released in November of 1959. Although I didn’t realize it (I was only 12 at the time) I was already an armchair mountaineer. This pursuit of the big mountains from an easy chair was brought to a head when the first group of Americans summitted Mt. Everest in April of 1963. The book on that expedition by the leader, Norman Dyhrenfurth, and famed writer of mountain climbing novels, James Ramsey Ullman, published an account of the expedition.
Ullman also penned Banner in the Sky which became the basis for the Disney film, Third Man on the Mountain. Ullman’s stories were masterpieces of the climb although JRU was not himself a mountaineer. His stories also had a sense of companionship and sacrifice that was appealing to any 12-year-old would-be hero. The other novel by JRU I remember well was, And Not to Yield, published in 1970. It’s a bracketed story, with climbing sequences in the beginning and end, interrupted by a lot of soap opera and drama in the middle. The ending was a lot like that of Third Man on the Mountain.
As I write this review I notice the date is May 12. Any good armchair mountaineer will know this is the seventh anniversary of American Ed Viesturs’ summit climb on Annapurna. EV was born in June 1959. He was only five months old when the Disney film was released, and he missed the premiere. When EV was young he was very influenced by the all-time best-selling book on mountain climbing, Annapurna by Maurice Herzog – who along with Louis Lachenal became the first to climb that mountain. This made them the first climbers to reach the summit of any of the 14 Himalayan Peaks above 8,000 Meters (over 26,000 ft). The climb came at a great cost: Herzog lost all of his fingers and toes to frostbite. His partner fared only a little better. To date, MH’s book has reportedly sold 11 million copies worldwide. Ed’s response to the Herzog tale was not to sit on the couch and shiver as I did, but to go out and climb Annapurna.
After a short career as a veterinarian, he changed course and decided to go up. Way, way up. As of this date Ed has been up Mt. Everest seven times. I estimate I have read at least seven books on the subject. With his climb of Annapurna, he became only the 12th person to climb all 14 of the 8,000-meter peaks and he did so without supplemental oxygen. He is one of only five people in the world to have accomplished that task. He has also been up and down Mt. Rainier in Washington State over 200 times. He calls it practicing.
EV lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and kids. His books on his goal of climbing the 14 big ones is a great read, armchair mountaineer or not. His works (with co-author David Roberts) on his specific outings to K2 (worlds 2nd highest peak) and his personal nemesis, Annapurna, provide complete histories of the last 100 years of human endeavors to climb these two mountains. His books are all available at Amazon.com and more info can be found at his website edviesturs.com.
See Part 2 next week.