"If we can pull it off," Norman
Dyhrenfurth said of the West Ridge, "it would be the biggest
possible thing still to be accomplished in Himalayan mountaineering."
This judgment came from the man best qualified to make
it. He was leading the American Mount Everest Expedition when
he said it; he had already climbed in many lands, had been on
four previous Himalayan expeditions including the Swiss Expedition
to Everest, and he had been dreaming of the West Ridge for years.
The importance of the West Ridge was
clear to Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld; they knew that there
should be a book about it soon after they completed their unique
traverse of the top of the world. We knew that there should be
a Sierra Club Exhibit Format book on the American Everest Expedition.
We did not know, however, how good a marriage the two projects
We wanted a book in three parts: about
the approach, the people and the environment the expedition met
as it started out. About the contest, man versus rock and ice
and versus his own weaknesses, shored up with his own inner strength
-- not the nuts-and-bolts story of the climb but something reaching
deeper. About the prospect of man and mountains in general, one
that would review the relationship from the time he learned to
accept the mountains' challenge as a game. The finest Himalayan
photographs we could find would be paired with the most moving
excerpts of text others could find. Perhaps such a book would
reveal the survival value to man of the force within him that
sends him off to summits.