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The Vast Unknown: America's First Ascent of Everest

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  121 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
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.  ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Crown (first published January 1st 2013)
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Apr 02, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, vine, non-fiction
I have a soft spot for mountaineering books, especially those about Everest, probably because I will never climb a mountain and I can live vicariously through the narrative without risking life and limb. I hadn't realized a) that Americans were the third nation to summit the tallest mountain in the world (behind England and Switzerland) and b) that they did not accomplish this feat until 1963. Mountaineering was dramatically different than when Mallory made his first (unsuccessful, fatal) summit ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
In 1963, America was dazed: the Cold War was in full swing and America was falling behind. What to do to restore American pride? Why not try to beat Russia to Mt. Everest?

Thus the push was on to send Americans to the top of Mt. Everest.

What a trek! Rock. Ice. Snow. Cold. Lack of oxygen. Endless walking. The pressure of time.

Harrowing, yes, but, honestly, isn’t this the best way to travel to Mt. Everest? Through the pages of a great story?
Mar 01, 2013 Deborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an enthusiastic fan of what a friend and I call "frozen people" books, those having to do with exploration, mountaineering, and other endeavours that involve snow and ice, I was thrilled to win a First Reads copy of The Vast Unknown through GoodReads. I read the book slowly and carefully, realizing that this was something truly special. Mr.Coburn sets up the expedition in a fascinating way. He introduces his reader to the history of mountaineering in this country, sets up the backgrounds of a ...more
I love books about mountaineering. I'm not entirely sure why, since I have no interest in ever climbing a mountain myself. But I find it fascinating to read about. The United States' first ascent of Everest took place 10 years after the Sir Edmund Hillary had conquered the mountain, so it would seem like the expedition wouldn't matter a whole lot. However, it took place during the Cold War, and just a few years after President Kennedy had vowed to get an American man on the moon. The US was keen ...more
Apr 20, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The British reached the peak of Everest in 1953, so why read about the first American attempt ten years later? Because this story is a mixture of teamwork, tragedy, perseverance, and success, and is very well told by the author, Broughton Coburn. If you understand the desire to explore nature, you will enjoy this book.

The comparison of the American ascent's importance to the space race in the introduction seemed to be a bit of a stretch. (But to be fair, I wasn't around then.) The story picks up
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book through LibraryThings' Early Reviewer program.

Broughton Coburn's "The Vast Unknown: America's First Asecent of Everest" is a solid, factual account of the first successful American expedition to the summit of the world's highest peak. Not only did the team reach the top, they also, on a much-debated side mission, forced a new route up the west ridge.

Coburn's account of the expedition has an almost newspaper-like quality to it in
Jun 10, 2013 Shane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great story well told. The description of the climbing itself is factual and not overdone. The story is amazing enough without embellishment, but the best part of the book was the exploration of the lives and personalities of the climbers both before and after the climb. It's a great read if you like mountaineering literature or just an intriguing story of the eccentric and colorful individuals that made up the climbing team.
Doug Cornelius

Go America! Climb the tallest mountain!

But the Brits and Swiss have already made the summit?

Yeah, but we beat the Soviets to the top!

According to Broughton Coburn in his latest book, The Vast Unknown: America's First Ascent of Everest , that was the main motivation for the American expedition to Mount Everest in 1963. And if not the main motivation for the climbers, it was a motivation for many of the expedition's sponsors.

I used to dabble in mountaineering so I understand the motivation for
May 03, 2013 Christie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
It's no secret that I love books about Everest. While in some ways the stories are all fairly similar, this one tells of America's first assent. Back when climbing Everest was still very new, and a lot more challenging and complicated than it has become today.

America's first expedition team, in 1963, was made up of a young, free-spirited, independent group of climbers, many of whom worked as guides in the Tetons. The climb was a mix of their own hopes of dreams of summiting as well as political
John Wagner
Jan 20, 2014 John Wagner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this because many of the climbers had Wyoming roots and I'm a WY native. I was mostly pleasantly surprised at (despite the unimaginative title)the quality of the writing. The description of the ascent of the previously unclimbed West Ridge was particularly well done. I also liked the bit at the end about the CIA's attempt to place electronic listening devices in the Himalayas to spy on China's nuclear tests.

However, I didn't think the depiction of all the principals as stalwarts in eve
Mar 02, 2013 Cherei rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you know of anyone who is a climber.. or if you ARE a climber.. then this is one novel that you do NOT want to miss! It's a must read! Everyone dreams of climbing Mount Everest.. but, most have no idea what is truly needed to make it to the top.. and BACK!

My husband used to climb when he was younger. It was fascinating to read a book that is about people that he knew in his youth. Climbers are a breed unto themselves. Most dream of being as daring and as adventurous as the people they've rea
Patricia Bergman
Jun 24, 2013 Patricia Bergman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book through Goodreads giveaway.

Why would a man torture his mind and body to such an extent attempting to climb the world's highest mountain? Broughton Coburn successfully answers this question by diving into the psyche of the team who attempted this feat in 1963. The book is fascinating and illustrative as to the wide array of professions and motivations driving this group of interesting characters. Additionaly, the historical events occurring in 1963 add to the flavor of the st
May 22, 2013 Vickie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating read! Even though I am agoraphobic and get dizzy standing on a step stool, this book made me want to take up mountaineering! Not because he made light of the grueling aspects of mountain climbing, but because of his beautiful descriptions of the mountain and its aspects.

Coburn made the climbers seem like people you knew and I wanted to be there to warm them up at the end of the climb.

Besides learning quite a bit about climbing, I also learned a tidbit about Vibrams!

This was a free G
May 17, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was well organized and well written. Coburn did a great job of making the large cast of participants human and memorable. The descriptions of the actual summiting up Everest were suspenseful. Highly readable and an interesting contrast to descriptions of later Everest climbs like Krakauer's "Into Thin Air".

I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.
Sep 03, 2014 lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book! Brings you back to days when countries were interested improving themselves through personal feats like the space race and climbing the tallest mountains rather than who has the most guns. America's first summiting of Everest is an amazing story,both of the individuals who accomplished it and the routes taken. Great tale of will, determination and survival!
Mar 03, 2013 Brittany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-won
I received this book through the First Reads giveaway program on Goodreads.

I am TERRIFIED of heights so the closest I will come to mountain climbing is this book!

This was very well-told with the descriptions seeming factual (I'm not a climber so I have to guess!) and not at all overdone. I liked reading about the lives of the climbers before and after the climb.
Mar 07, 2013 Wendy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-gave-up
I really wanted to like this book. I got two chapters in and couldn't take it - the prose is so purpleI'm surprised it wasn't printed in colored ink. I've read a handful of Everest narratives, but I think it was the gung ho space-age yay America tone of this that put me off.
Oct 11, 2015 Cindydee46204 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

What a great adventure! I'm awed by the courage, humor and brilliance of these fascinating climbers and the feats they undertook and completed on Everest. Amazing men. Amazing story.
May 28, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the combination of classic alpine adventure with the the historical, geopolitical, cultural, and spiritual context of the time. Yet, despite this background context, the author made the story feel fresh and alive, Very well done!
Aug 09, 2016 Susan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I really struggled with this novel. It is deep into the history of mountain climbing in the United States, and was more than I expected or really want to know. I am sure that an avid climber would love this book. Just not my cup of tea!
Jun 09, 2013 Stormy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-researched account of the US Everest expedition. It has a lot of details about the climber guides from the Tetons who were part of the first ascent (and survival of) the West Ridge of Everest. The route is so difficult, not many have followed in their path.
Jan Foley
May 08, 2013 Jan Foley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like how the author provided some interesting back stories - espionage, politics and the basics of a climb, right down to what one wears wears when climbing in high altitudes. Good read.
Apr 24, 2016 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
Solid. Clear descriptions of their summit attempts.
Aug 31, 2013 Dennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good book on USA first summit of Everest - this will be on Adam Fox's desk on Tuesday for his perusal.
Jan 19, 2015 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was hoping this book would quench my needs for a nonfiction adventure. I love Everest stories. This felt a little too detailed for me. The writing and research are impeccable.
Feb 05, 2015 Keppy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is sort of an inspiration because it is a team that completes the task a head despite the many, many challenges they faced.
Sep 08, 2013 Tyera rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dull at times.
Jun 21, 2013 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story of the first American expedition to summit Everest, in 1963. Covers the history of the main members of the team, as well as what happened to them afterwards.
Kelly rated it liked it
Sep 23, 2015
Art rated it really liked it
Feb 23, 2016
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