Broughton Cobern (Nepal 1973-75) is the author of the bestselling Everest: Mountain Without Mercy, a chronicle of the iconic first American expedition to Mount Everest in the spring of 1963. Now he has published to coincide with the climb’s 50th anniversary, The Vast Unknown America’s First Ascent of Everest.
Crown Publishing will bring the book out on April 30, 2013, which means that it is already available on line or in book stores, if you can find one.
This book and the climb are interesting in a number of ways.
Some history that, of course, relates to the Peace Corps.
One of the men on that famous climb was Willi Unsoeld who had just gone to work for the Peace Corps as the deputy director in Nepal. The director was the famous American climber Bob Bates, and Shriver in 1961 had asked Bates who he wanted as his deputy. Bates said Unsoeld. At the time, Unsoeld was teaching religion and philosophy at a college in Orgeon. Bates told Shriver, “He’s (Unsoeld) is a beloved cult figure out there. Tough as they come, physically, but very spiritual, too.”
Unsoeld, Coburn writes, “personified the rugged, spirited, Northwest archetype for Kennedy’s new American.
If the Peace Corps would release him from duty, Unsoeld could join the expediting. Shriver did.
On that famous first climb, Unsoeld would loose nine of his ten toes. In the Methodist missionary hospital to the south of Kathmandu, he looked at his frostbitten toes and, “In a fit of boredom one day,” Coburn writes, Willi found an old pair of scissor and for a truly unique experience, he snipped some of them off.”
He hadn’t really lost them. His kids collected his toes and put them in a jar and filled it with formaldehyde. They especially enjoyed bringing out the jar to show to luncheon guests.
You’ve got to love the people (and their kids!) who find their way to the Peace Corps.