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Everest: The West Ridge

(Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series #12)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  486 ratings  ·  48 reviews
"Not only did Hornbein play a crucial role in one of the most extraordinary accomplishments in the history of mountaineering, his account of the feat is one of the finest things ever written about this peculiar, hazardous, and uncommonly engaging pursuit." --Jon Krakauer
* Special anniversary edition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest
ebook, Anniversary Edition, 304 pages
Published March 13th 2013 by Mountaineers Books (first published 1966)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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The first successful summit attempts of Mt. Everest occurred in the mid 20th century. Of course the first, and most historical, was achieved in 1953 by a British expedition when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to stand on the top of the world. Their route was up the southeast ridge, still the most used route today. The Chinese were the first to conquer the famous northeast ridge in 1960. Famous because because of the earlier, and unsuccessful, British attempts from that side. ...more
Mar 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Here man seemed to be reaching for something. His grip was tenuous, inconsequential, yet full of beauty and meaning." -The Author

I'm not a mountain climber. I read Everest books to grapple with the existential issues, and to contemplate how I might take my lifestyle up a notch using the climber's principles. I would not recommend Everest: The West Ridge for first-time readers of this subgenre. Start with Into Thin Air , Dead Lucky , or Touching My Father's Soul A Sherpa's Journey to t
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hands down, one of the best Everest/climbing books I've read. No politics, all camaraderie, grit and eloquence. Some amazing photos to boot. ...more
May 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like all books about Everest I was riveted. This book is about the 1963 summit of Mt Everest via the west ridge. (Ueli Steck who just died this weekend was planning on summiting via this route). I really enjoyed reading this book; though I enjoy reading all books about Everest, so take that with a grain of salt. I struggled with some of the technical detail about climbing as I am not a climber. I also really wished there were more maps to reference. The pictures, even though they were from 1963, ...more
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Always enjoy reading mountaineering books. You can just feel the passion and drive of these individuals who seek the highest peaks despite the risks involved. This is the story of the first summiting of Everest by the west route. Meeting their goals and the interaction between the climbers, who each have their own agenda and big egos, is always interesting. Managing to achieve those goals while still getting along may be the biggest challenge on the mountain. Hornbeam is somewhat different as he ...more
I wish he'd spent less time on logistics and decisions leading up to the climb, but it's still a very interesting account of the first ascent of the West Ridge. Also very interesting to read about a climb in 1963 since the technology available to them was so vastly different from today. They really had to rely on grit and experience. ...more
A recollection of one of the greatest achievements in mountaineering history, that is both meditative and funny. The 1963 American Everest Expedition put 6 people on the summit, two of them (including Hornbein) blazing a route up the West Ridge that has never been equaled. This book does utmost justice to the seemingly overused phrase, "a triumph of the human spirit." ...more
James Moss
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award Classics Award for 2013. One of the best books ever written on climbing Mt. Everest
Keith A.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In late May, 1963, two men, having spent the night at 27,000 feet on a ledge carved out of ice on a sheer cliff face, begin the final ascent to the highest place on Earth, Mt. Everest, 29,029 feet above sea level. They are climbing without fixed ropes, freestyle, with no support team and no chance of rescue. They are wearing reindeer-skin boots, woolen pants, shirts and mitts and windbreaker jackets. Except for rudimentary oxygen tanks and masks, they are without any of the high tech gear that i ...more
Peter McGinn
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, one of the dozens (hundreds?) out there describing ascents of Mt. Everest. To me it seems to represent a literary bridge between the dry, factual accounts of early mountaineering expeditions, and the vivid, sometimes explosive tell-all books on the bestseller lists more recently.

And in fact, some reviewers state that this book is indeed one of those old-time dry accounts, but I disagree. Yes, the writing is more formal, in the way that classic fiction (Dickens) was mo
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mountaineering
In reading the book, I realized that just because one has had the opportunity to experience something extraordinary, doesn't automatically necessitate good writing. *Duh! I know* I was in awe of Tom Hornbein’s personal journey; not only did he have the guts to venture into the unknown, but he also survived overnight in Everest! All those elements combined made me have high hopes for this book, until I realized, to my disappointment, that the writing was quite stilted. :(   In here, I found a man ...more
Brandon Carter
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of the first Americans to summit Mt. Everest in 1963. I went looking for it because it was cited several times in “Into Thin Air.”

It isn’t a minute by minute, blow by blow account of the climb, but there’s enough of that here to be satisfying. However it offers a fascinating look into the logistics of putting together an Everest expedition.

If “Into Thin Air” is more of an accessible every man’s book about Everest, “The West Ridge” is written more to an audience that is familiar
Radu Cristian Neagoe
An impressive tale about some of the first bravesmen to mount the Everest through a never before taken route, in the 1960s, back when there was not much advanced technology, and people had to carry extremely heavy oxygen tanks with them, this book teaches you a bit about bravery, recklessness, endurance, and the mental battle with yourself, when faced with a seemingly impossible challenge, that somehow becomes possible. Written by one of the participants, it might be the closest sensation will g ...more
Wandering Wizard
4.5 stars. A good account of the American 1963 Everest expedition. Lots of good photos to accompany the main text. The only slight downside - little has been described about the final summit day as well as the descent. It gets over in a jiffy esp. when compared to the lengthy descriptions of the preparation days (even when they were killing time on Base/Adv Base camps). But may be it is just me trying to nitpick things. The climb itself was a great achievement and still is by any standards. So a ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just wanted to read it a while ago after seeing Hornbein's interview with Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air); I love the way it's written and the story is quite entertaining, especially after they crossed the 26ooo ft line. Also, have to point it out, there are a slew of pictures in the book, so you'll grasp the atmosphere and surroundings, since sometimes it's hard to imagine how the Cwm or Lhotse face looks like, of course you can easily google it, however the pictures taken back at the time are wor ...more
Jean Dupenloup
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tom Horbein’s classic account is a canonic work of Everest literature.

In this thrilling memoir, Doctor Horbein relates his ascent of the west ridge of Mount Everest along with superstar mountaineer Willi Unsoeld.

The climb, cutting edge at the time (and to this day for that matter) was a landmark feat that ushered the start of new standards for Himalayan alpine climbing.

Well written, a fascinating story, and a good measure of humanity...Doctor Horbein weaves quite a tale.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the blurb I read about this book in a previous Everest book, I expected a lot of facts about the emotional states and inner workings of Hornbein's Everest team. There was a little information about some of the differences of opinion and conflicts, but it was a pretty superficial look at the expedition. The photos were wonderful. ...more
Lynn Hancock
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Hornbein's writing is clear, technical, and occasionally philosophical or exciting. I enjoyed reading his account of climbing the West Ridge and would recommend it to other climbers, but probably not to the lay person. ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic summit account. Nowhere near as tragic as the 1996 disaster, yet still fraught with peril.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Awesome perspective on a mountainous adventure
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great teal of an outstanding first ascent of Everest's West Ridge. Enjoyed the adventure of the American efforts on Everest. ...more
Way too many quotes, so I skipped a lot of those, but an interesting tale of an Everest expedition charting a new route up and over the mountain.
Erik Johnson
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a fellow mountaineer in California, while I have never climbed in Tibet, the story is true of all mountaineers and taps into deep our psyche. a riveting story of pushing the limits
Edmund Rudell
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I checked out the hardcover from the library. Good story and even better pictures in this edition.
Mar 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
beautiful cover deathly boring read. very american.
May 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mountaineering
Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld are written into the history of Mt. Everest, being the first team to ascend via the West Ridge (in 1963), the first to traverse the mountain, and bivouac overnight above 8000 metres. The Hornbein Couloir on the North Face of Everest was named for Tom during the 1963 expedition. Everest : the West Ridge is Hornbein's recollection of that expedition, drawn from his diary notes and transcripts of meetings and radio conversations that took place during the expedition.

Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was fortunate to get a copy of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format version of this book from my public library. This is a big book - about 14" x 18" - with beautiful full-page color photographs. It's about 200 pages, with numerous short sayings, poems, essays, excerpts, etc, interspersed with the photos and with the text of the book. It's easy to love this book.

And mostly I do. I did find the first third of the book, about the logistics, and about getting CLOSE to Everest, a little slow - I did ski
Al Bergstein
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most Americans that care about writing of the outdoors, have probably read Jim Whittaker's biography, in which he describes the incredible assent of Everest in 1963, the first by Americans. While Whittaker's book is excellent, the real secondary and less known drama of that expedition was the amazing summiting of the West Ridge by two other members of the expedition. That feat, is still considered one of the most remarkable climbs of mountaineering history. Tom Hornbein was one of the two that d ...more
Doug Canfield
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mountaineers Books Staffer: Another mountaineering classic on the Mountaineers Books list. In 1963, Jim Whittaker became the first American to set foot on the summit of Mt. Everest. While the summit team was pushing to the top, two young less-accomplished members of the team, sat in base camp wondering how they might make their mark.

"Everest: The West Ridge" is the story of Tom Hornbein and Willy Unsoeld's big idea: "Let's try summitting by the West Ridge", something that no one had ever done. T
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow--still a mountaineering classic. More humans have walked on the moon than successfully summited Everest via the West Ridge---and to read how what was really a small splinter group of alpine-style climbers split off the main 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition (AMEE) and not only successfully climbed to the summit but accomplished the first traverse of Everest (they descended via the South Col route). Hornbein captures the tension between the "West ridgers" and the other traditional route ...more
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