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Fatal Mountaineer: The High-Altitude Life and Death of Willi Unsoeld, American Himalayan Legend

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  60 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews
In 1963, Willi Unsoeld became an international hero for his conquest of the West Ridge of Everest. A charismatic professor of philosophy, Unsoeld was one of the greatest climbers of the twentiethth century, a man whose raw physical power and casual fearlessness inspired a generation of adventurers.

In 1976, during an expedition to Nanda Devi, the tallest peak in India, Uns
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 20th 2003 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2002)
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Jun 07, 2009 Sonja rated it liked it
This book was a little different in its telling of a mountain climbing expedition. Willi Unsoeld had reached the top of Mt. EVerest. He had seen the Indian mountain Nanda Devi and said it was so beautiful he wanted to name his first born daughter after it. Years later, Willi and his daughter Devi formed an expedition to climb Nanda Devi. This particular book was more about the philosophies of Willi and the other people on the trek with him, and also other people in general who had been involved ...more
Apr 25, 2014 Rebecca rated it liked it
While I think the slightly meandering style of this book might be frustrating for some--and probably myself if I had picked it up at a more restless moment--it seems to mimic what the author wants to convey about the parts of Willi's life that are the focus here. The accounts weave together in a way that suggests a search for understanding and reflection on what is, ultimately, unknowable on countless levels. Willi struggles, he triumphs, he fails, he inspires, and all the while there is some th ...more
Mar 05, 2015 James rated it liked it
Shelves: climbing

No wonder the family doesn't like this book.

When the accident that killed "Willi" occurred,

we were told a serac had toppled over and crushed people.
A freak accident that could not be predicted,
a chance in a million.

Now we're told he deliberately took a high risk route
down an avalanche slope, and no surprise,
he got buried.

Too bad he took someone else with him.

For the first time, I learn that Chouinard advised
him of the high avalanche danger.

As for the rest of the book,
Tina Hamilton
Jul 13, 2011 Tina Hamilton rated it liked it
This was not an easy book to read. Although the story that anchors the book is a 1976 expedition to Nanda Devi (tallest mountain in India), it often goes "off story". The purpose is to give the reader a sense of Willi's life and education, but it can be distracting. One of the climbers of the 1976 expedition is Willi's daughter, Devi. Yes, he named her after the mountain. She worked hard to earn her place on the expedition and wanted to climb the mountain with her father, a much admired climber. ...more
Jun 04, 2013 BettyBolero rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, mountains
I think the title of this book is misleading. It is NOT about the life of Willi Unsoeld but focuses on ONE tragic climb of Nanda Devi and mentions his West Ridge Summit of Everest & concludes with one short chapter on his last fateful climb. I wanted to know to know about Willi's family life; how he met his wife, the names of his other children, his family's reaction to his mountaineering exploits. I had already read Roskelley's account of the Nanda Devi climb and wasn't looking for another ...more
W. Gayle
Mar 17, 2012 W. Gayle rated it did not like it
I knew Willi Unsoeld in college and this book is not reflective of Willi's character or how he lived his life. It does not capture his personality or his spirit. This book was written against the express wishes of Willi's family and is a disservice to the man, the educator, and the mountaineer that I knew.
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“It matters what myths we tell ourselves -- which ideals we choose to honor.” 4 likes
“Maybe mountaineering shouldn't be considered heroic at all, since the whole effort is 'useless' and in no way to be compared with sitting down at the wrong lunch counter in the early-sixties South, or going into battle. Nevertheless, situations arise in the useless enterprise of mountaineering that present people with choices, that make emotional and physical demands that few can meet.” 2 likes
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