Cover Image: To the Greatest Heights

To the Greatest Heights

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Member Reviews

** I received a free copy of this in exchange for my honest opinion** 

This was a fun read! I love reading stories about Everest and mountaineering as it's not something I myself will ever do. It was fun to read about Vanessa's journey climbing all these mountains over such a short time period. I did, however, find her at times to be way too intense for me. We definitely have very different personalities! Because of this, some part of the book left me cringing. Overall, a well written book that was an easy read but with an unrelateable writer.
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To the Greatest Heights: Facing Danger, Finding Humility, and Climbing a Mountain of Truth by Vanessa O’Brien is a memoir of this world record breaking explorer. Ms. O’Brien is the first American woman and British woman (dual citizenship) to climb K2, and climbed the highest peak in every continent in 295 days, a world record.

Ms. O’Brien certainly has accomplished a lot in her life. She holds several world records, have met many interesting people, has a supporting husband, sponsors, does what she wants and when she wants.
Mostly.

To the Greatest Heights: Facing Danger, Finding Humility, and Climbing a Mountain of Truth by Vanessa O’Brien (book website) tells of the authors successful attempts at the Seven Summits Challenge and the Explorers Grand Slam (climb the seven summits and reach the North and South poles). Along the way, Ms. O’Brien talks about her past, and her life philosophy.

I really enjoyed the parts where the author writes about mountaineering, obviously her passion. She makes interesting observations and doesn’t skip the bad or difficult parts. There is a lot of information in this book about subjects I haven’t read about in other books. What does it feel like being in close quarters with a stranger, the smell of unwashed bodies weeks on end, why there no, or very little, sex on expeditions, and what happened when you get sick – among others.

The author complains quite a bit, but I thought that was the charm of the book, and she took responsibility, not putting the blame on others (most of the time). I love to travel, or just “go places” and often times the things to go wrong make the trip more memorable.

Ms. O’Brien also tells of her climb to the top of K2, a notoriously difficult task. This climb was one of her most proud achievements, and rightly so it is a major part of this book.

The connections the author tries to make between the mountaineering world and the corporate world seem forced. I get that this is a bouncing board for paid speech gigs, but I enjoyed reading about the mountaineering much more.

People often forgot to credit luck and privilege for their success (which doesn’t take anything away from your hard work). I got the feeling that Vanessa O’Brien knows she’s lucky, but forgot privileged. She made a ton of money, or so it seems, early on in her career, furthermore her husband has to make good money to support her hobby. Accordingly, most people can’t comprehend to spend $50K – $70K on …. well… anything besides a house. Yes, she had to skimp and save here and there, but that’s still a chunk of change for the vast majority of people.
And yes, that is jealousy talking!
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To the greatest heights by Vanessa O'Brien
When I searched for non-fiction books I thought I would like to read on NetGalley, I came across this one. A story of a woman who managed to climb the Seven Summits, both Poles and K2, this is a 4 star book to me. I picked it because I like climbing stories. Her non-climbing stories in this memoir are good as well. She kept climbing even when things got tough.
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Karen climbs a mountain. Don't get me wrong. O'Brien has accomplished major feats in climbing and.exploration but she complains quite a bit and gives her two cents to the more skilled leaders of expeditions.  I liked the straight mountaineering narrative rather than when she ties it with corporate world implications. I get that this is for future talks but it feels forced. Accomplished and determined, an adventurous woman in climbing dominated by men.  For that alone it's worth the read for arm chair adventurers.

Copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley
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I've heard of Vanessa O’Brien, so I was excited to get my hands on her upcoming book. To the Greatest Heights was an excellent memoir. O’Brien didn’t sugarcoat the realities of mountain climbing as she recounted her experiences on as many notable mountains as I can think of—just off on the top of my head, think Everest and Kilimanjaro among the many others. She talked about it with a searing honesty, and mentioned her successes as often as she did her failures and the hard learned lessons she gained by experience. The reality was grim, dangerous, and somewhat gross at times. However, I have to admire O’Brien’s determination to continue climbing even when faced with injuries, subzero temperatures, and sweltering heat among other hazards that come with mountaineering. Since this was a memoir, O’Brien also talked about her life, career, and the family tragedies that made her the person she was. It also was often correlated with key moments in the book. So as she would talk about her experiences on a mountain or at the North and South Pole, she would also delve into more personal topics.

To the Greatest Heights was, at its core, about O’Brien and her personal journey with mountaineering. It was as much about the mountains as it was about her life. It was fantastic, and I highly recommend this one.  

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Atria/Emily Bestler Books) via Netgalley for this review, thank you!
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Inspiring inspiring inspiring!! This was an incredible read. First of all, her accomplishments are astounding and her retelling of them was captivating. As an adventurer myself I thought that she did a great job of providing just enough details without going overboard with every little thing. I can’t begin to comprehend the dynamics between her and her spouse but it seems as though they could work through things together and her account of that may even help me in my own marriage. Vanessa is a truly inspiring mountaineer and I hope that this book will spur a new generation of kick ass female climbers. Five stars.
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