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The Ultimate Inspiration: Famous Mountaineering Expeditions

By Kristin Masters. Jan 11, 2012. 4:42 AM.

The month of January: a time for new beginnings… and New Year’'s resolutions. Already many of us are already grappling with the challenge of maintaining our resolve. What better inspiration for fulfilling those promises, than a look at the heroes who have attempted one of the ultimate challenges:

from John Muir's travels

Fascinating Natural Obstacles

For ages mountain climbing had fascinated us. The physical challenges and natural splendor of the world’s highest peaks continues to inspire amateurs and experts alike.  Early mountaineering expeditions included the frontiers of the Americas. Colonial expansion exposed us to natural challenges around the world.

These dangerous explorations were initially the responsibility and (perhaps) privilege of government officials, but in the last fifty years private citizens have been able to follow suit. Mountaineering has inspired an entire cadre of explorer-authors to recount their experiences.

  • Though John Muir occupies history as a naturalist, his occupation required extensive exploration, most notably into Alaska. His travelogue, Travels in Alaska is so beautifully written that it has entered the canon of literature.
  • Captain James Fisk led numerous exploratory expeditions throughout the Rocky Mountains during the American Gold Rush and reported his findings to the Secretary of War, who in turn presented them to Congress. Fisk took an unconventional approach, allowing civilians to accompany him.
  • George Mallory took part in the very first British expedition to Mount Everest in 1922, when he discovered a glacial pass that allowed ascent of the peak’s north side. He made two more trips up the mountain, the second of which led to his demise (1924).
  • In 1950 Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal successfully reached the peak of Annapuria, the tenth highest mountain in the world. Herzog extensively documented the climb in his book, Annapurna: The First 8,000 Metre Peak.
  • Following in Mallory’s footsteps was Sir Edmund Hillary. Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach Mount Everest’s summit in 1953. Hillary has written extensively about his experiences, and many authors have found him a fascinating subject for their biographies.
  • The 1950’s proved an era of exploration. Austrian explorer, geographer, and author Heinrich Harrer was on the climbing team that first ascended the north face of the Eiger in Switzerland. He later earned acclaim as author of Seven Years in Tibet, which tells of his years exploring the Himalayas.
  • Not all adventures are planned. Nando Parrado wrote Miracle in the Andes after surviving the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. The entire Uruguayan rugby team was on board when the plane crashed in the Andes Mountains. Parrado and his fellow survivors were trapped on a mountain for two months before attempting the ten-day climb to safety.
  • Journalist and author Jon Krakauer made a name for himself after making several journeys to Mount Everest. The author of Into the Wild (1996) and Into Thin Air (1997) has also written numerous magazine articles chronicling his adventures.

The works and adventures of these figures can inspire us to our own greatness. What adventures do you have planned for 2012?

Kristin Masters
Master Content Brain. You think it, she writes it, no good thought remains unposted. Sprinkles pixie dust on Google+, newsletters, blog, facebook, twitter and just about everything else.


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