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

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Only 44 people have reached the summit of all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, according to lớn 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 menu. In 1993, climbing alone and without supplemental oxyren 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 hlặng was a narrow spine of about 100 meters, a knife-edge of corniced snow with drops to oblivion on both sides. At its over 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 Elisheba 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 deck 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 and scooted back khổng lồ relative safety.



K2


Broad Peak


Gasherbrum I và 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 và II


Broad Peak


Nanga Parbat


China


Pakistan


India


Dhaulagiri I


Manaslu


Nepal


Cho Oyu


Mount Everest


New Delhi


Annapurmãng cầu I


Shishapangma


Makalu


100 miles


Kathmandu


Lhotse


Kangchenjunga



K2


Broad Peak


Gasherbrum I & II


Nanga Parbat


China


Pakistan


India


Dhaulagiri I


Nepal


Manaslu


Cho

Oyu


Mount Everest


New Delhi


Annapurmãng cầu 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. He is aước ao the cadre of behind-the-scenes researchers who give sầu credence lớn the claims that make others famous.

He can tell you the names of various expeditions, the dates, the details of the routes & whether oxyren was used. He has studied photographs & videos & satellite coordinates & accounts from climbers và 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 lớn the wrong spot on Annapurna’s broad top. Some stopped at a pole planted on Dhaulagiri that confused them inlớn 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 khổng lồ lie about their accomplishments. They just did not get khổng lồ the top in every case, Jurgalski và others say. They stopped a few meters short, whether by accident or tradition.

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


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

To keep itself honest, mountaineering relies on integrity and the power of a guilty conscience. For high-profile expeditions, it is the adventurer’s responsibility lớn prove sầu what he or she claims to have done in some of the world’s remochạy thử places. Evidence of important ascents generally comes from an inexact combination of photos and selfies, satellite coordinates và 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 to historical records, doesn’t he have an obligation to lớn double-check their accuracy?

Several years ago, he enlisted help from a few other volunteer researchers, including Rodolphe Popier and 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 & written accounts, trying khổng lồ place climbers in precise locations.


The unfolding revelations have Jurgalski nervous. He knows that reputations and livelihoods depend on summit claims. They depover on his các mục.

“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 lớn let cthảm bại be good enough.

He wants the historical record to lớn reflect precision. He also wants khổng lồ 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 & figuratively, the summit — lượt thích 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 and cosmic, sure to divide absolutists from pragmatists.

“The summit does matter,” said David Roberts, a climber who has written dozens of books on Himalayan expeditions và co-written books with the likes of Viesturs, Jon Krakauer, Conrad Anker và 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 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 and occasional peer Reviews. Accomplishment is judged by some indescribable phối of difficulty, imagination and 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 heroes. It can bestow fame and forge reputations.

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

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

In 1997, he wrote an editorial for Climbing titled, “Cđại bại Only Counts in Horseshoes and Hand 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 to lớn say that you’ve climbed it,” he said recently, “you should climb lớn the summit.”

But he & 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 vì not belong just lớn the mountaineers, but also to the rest of us. If we find that the world’s greachạy thử climbers have 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 & metaphorical forms. Maybe we are the ones who must decide where the limits are.

“If you let these things go,” Gildea said from Australia, “& then you let more of these things go, when vì 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 đôi mươi in others. Those few vertical meters might be an hour’s hike — or a dangerous straddle và scooch — away.

The work of the researchers has focused, so far, on Annapurna, Dhaulagiri và Manaslu.

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


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