Has anyone really summited the world's 14 highest

Only 44 people have sầu reached the summit of all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, according khổng lồ the people who chronicle such things.

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Only 44 people have sầu reached the summit of all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, according to the people who chronicle such things.


The difference rides on a timeless question getting a fresh look:The difference rides on a timeless question getting a fresh look:


Ed Viesturs believes he knows. He is one of the 44, the only American on the list. In 1993, climbing alone & without supplemental oxygene or ropes, Viesturs reached the “central summit” of Shishapangma, the world’s 14th-highest mountain. Most climbers turn around there, calling it good enough.

Before hyên ổn was a narrow spine of about 100 meters, a knife-edge of corniced snow with drops to oblivion on both sides. At its kết thúc was the mountain’s true summit, a few meters higher in elevation than where he stood.

Too dangerous, Viesturs told himself. He retreated.


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Audio produced by Parin Behrooz và Kate Winslett; music by Elishecha Ittoop

“You can let it go, or you can’t let it go,” Viesturs said. “And I was one of those guys where if the last nail in the dechồng hasn’t been hammered in, it’s not done.”

Eight years later, Viesturs climbed within reach of Shishapangma’s summit again. The ridge looked doable. With a leg on each side — “à cheval” in mountaineering, French for “on horseback” — he shimmied across it. He touched the highest point of Shishapangma và scooted back lớn relative sầu safety.



K2


Broad Peak


Gasherbrum I & II


Nanga Parbat


China


Pakistan


Pakistan


India


Dhaulagiri I


Manaslu


Nepal


Cho Oyu


Mount Everest


New Delhi


Annapurmãng cầu I


Shishapangma


Makalu


100 miles


Kathmandu


Lhotse


Kangchenjunga



K2


Gasherbrum I & II


Broad Peak


Nanga Parbat


China


Pakistan


India


Dhaulagiri I


Manaslu


Nepal


Cho Oyu


Mount Everest


New Delhi


Annapurna I


Shishapangma


Makalu


100 miles


Kathmandu


Lhotse


Kangchenjunga



K2


Broad Peak


Gasherbrum I và II


Nanga Parbat


China


Pakistan


India


Dhaulagiri I


Nepal


Manaslu


Cho

Oyu


Mount Everest


New Delhi


Annapurna I


Makalu


Shishapangma


Lhotse


Kathmandu


100 miles


Kangchenjunga



K2


Gasherbrum I và II


Broad Peak


Nanga Parbat


China


Pakistan


Shishapangma


India


Manaslu


Cho

Oyu


Mount

Everest


Nepal


Dhaulagiri I


New Delhi


Makalu


Annapurna I


Lhotse


100 miles


Kangchenjunga


Area of

detail


India


Nepal


New Delhi


Kathmandu


200 miles


Area of

detail


India


Nepal


200 miles


Note: Summit locations are approximate.

Thousands of miles away, in a small town in southwestern Germany, lives a 68-year-old man named Eberhard Jurgalski. He has a robust, white beard and pulls his hair inkhổng lồ a ponytail.

He has spent 40 years chronicling the ascents of the 8,000-meter peaks. He has not climbed these mountains, but he is widely respected for compiling the records of those who have sầu. He is amuốn the cadre of behind-the-scenes researchers who give credence khổng lồ the claims that make others famous.

He can tell you the names of various expeditions, the dates, the details of the routes & whether oxygen was used. He has studied photographs & videos và satellite coordinates & accounts from climbers and witnesses.

And now he has some jarring news: It is possible that no one has ever been on the true summit of all 14 of the 8,000-meter peaks.


Some stopped on Shishapangma’s central summit, not daring to lớn straddle the ridge the way Viesturs did. Some unwittingly went khổng lồ the wrong spot on Annapurna’s broad top. Some stopped at a pole planted on Dhaulagiri that confused them into lớn thinking it was the summit. Some turned around at a popular selfie-taking spot on Manaslu without scaling the precarious ridge hidden just beyond it.

Few if any of them tried lớn lie about their accomplishments. They just did not get khổng lồ the top in every case, Jurgalski & others say. They stopped a few meters short, whether by accident or tradition.

The implications for mountaineering are massive sầu. Or maybe they do not matter at all.


Eberhard Jurgalski has an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s tallest mountains.Clara Tuma for The Thủ đô New York Times

To keep itself honest, mountaineering relies on integrity và the power of a guilty conscience. For high-profile expeditions, it is the adventurer’s responsibility khổng lồ prove sầu what he or she claims to lớn have done in some of the world’s remodemo places. Evidence of important ascents generally comes from an inexact combination of photos & selfies, satellite coordinates and witnesses.

That leaves room for whispers of doubt.

For decades, Jurgalski worried that standards of a world-class summit were slipping. If he is a gatekeeper khổng lồ historical records, doesn’t he have an obligation to double-kiểm tra their accuracy?

Several years ago, he enlisted help from a few other volunteer researchers, including Rodolphe Popier & Tobias Pantel of the Himalayan Database and Damien Gildea, the Australian explorer.

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Dissecting one clalặng at a time, they are studying all the key ascents, through photographs và written accounts, trying lớn place climbers in precise locations.


The unfolding revelations have sầu Jurgalski nervous. He knows that reputations và livelihoods depkết thúc on summit claims. They depend on his danh sách.

“I’m a người of all of them, you know,” Jurgalski said. “But when there is something wrong, me as a chronicler, as an accepted chronicler, must make a point khổng lồ tell the complete truth.”

Jurgalski’s reputation is at stake, too. And he knows too much to let cthảm bại be good enough.

He wants the historical record to lớn reflect precision. He also wants to lớn establish a firm standard for future generations of climbers, an expectation for what constitutes a summit.

“There are no two possibilities,” Jurgalski said. “There is only one. A summit is not halfway or 99 percent of the way.”

Mountain as Metaphor


Literally and figuratively, the summit — like on Manaslu — represents the vertical finish line that says you have sầu gone as far as possible.Tomas Hanicinec

It sounds simple, the idea of a summit. Every mountain has one. By definition, a summit is the highest point, of a hill or an aspiration.

Just what does it mean to reach the summit?

It is a question both simple & cosmic, sure lớn divide absolutists from pragmatists.

“The summit does matter,” said David Roberts, a climber who has written dozens of books on Himalayan expeditions and co-written books with the likes of Viesturs, Jon Krakauer, Conrad Anker & Alex Honnold. “Why does it matter? Because it’s the whole point of mountaineering. It’s the goal that defines an ascent.”

There is no true governing body toàn thân for mountaineering, no single arbiter of what constitutes a feat worthy of adulation. For top mountaineers, it is a fuzzy world subject to lớn personal satisfaction và occasional peer đánh giá. Accomplishment is judged by some indescribable mix of difficulty, imagination và style.

It does not always matter if the top is reached. As Viesturs pointed out, it is called climbing, not summiting. The point is often the process.

But the summit is a rare tangible accomplishment in climbing, the one yes-or-no proposition. It can turn humans into lớn heroes. It can bestow fame & forge reputations.

More philosophically, it has meaning. It exists as the ultimate metaphor for achievement, a vertical finish line that says you have gone as far as possible. There is nowhere higher khổng lồ go.

“The summit is an ideal we can aspire to lớn,” said the climber Michael Kennedy, a former editor of Climbing and Alpinist magazines with a list of high-level mountaineering accomplishments khổng lồ his name.

In 1997, he wrote an editorial for Climbing titled, “Cthảm bại Only Counts in Horseshoes và H& Grenades.”

“Issues of style aside, success is measured along a single axis,” he wrote. “You either reach the summit or you don’t. Not much room for debate. Or is there?”

Kennedy still believes those words. “If you want lớn say that you’ve climbed it,” he said recently, “you should climb to the summit.”

But he và others also wonder: Does it really matter?


“I don’t know,” Viesturs said. “I mean, who’s counting? Who’s watching? Who’s paying attention?”

Maybe the questions vị not belong just khổng lồ the mountaineers, but also khổng lồ the rest of us. If we find that the world’s greathử nghiệm climbers have sầu been coming up short of their goals, purposely or not, maybe our response says more than the deception itself.

Maybe we are the ones who must reckon with the notion of a summit, in all its literary và metaphorical forms. Maybe we are the ones who must decide where the limits are.

“If you let these things go,” Gildea said from nước Australia, “và then you let more of these things go, when vì chưng you stop letting these things go?”

Summit Slippage


Of the 14 8,000-meter peaks, “six or seven,” Gildea said, are ripe for false summits. The difference is a vertical meter or two in some places, no more than about 20 in others. Those few vertical meters might be an hour’s hike — or a dangerous straddle and scooch — away.

The work of the researchers has focused, so far, on Annapurmãng cầu, Dhaulagiri & Manaslu.

Manaslu may be the most blatant example of summit slippage. The backgrounds of most “summit” photos today show, clearly, more mountain to lớn climb.