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A chronicle of the iconic first American expedition to Mount Everest in the spring of 1963

The Vast Unknown: America's First Ascent of Everest by Broughton Coburn

A chronicle of the iconic first American expedition to Mount Everest in the spring of 1963

The Vast Unknown

Broughton Coburn
  • Imprint: Crown Publishers
  • On sale: April 30, 2013
  • Price: $26.00
  • ISBN: 9780307887146
Contact: Mary Coyne

“A sweeping account of the first American visitors to Mount Everest’s peak….Coburn’s unhurried, character-driven narrative pays scrupulous attention to the climb’s every detail and to Everest’s majestic natural history….An exhilarating slice of American adventure-sporting history.”  —Kirkus Reviews

“Gripping… Likening a mountain-climbing expedition to a space mission is clever and apt, Everest being completely unknown, nearly as daunting and potentially deadly as outer space…Not just another book about mountain climbing, this is also a story of America in the early 1960s.”  —Booklist

“Broughton Coburn has written a book to renew our faith in what it means to believe in each other, and in ourselves. This is what it looked like when ordinary men of extraordinary courage and self-discipline worked through tragedy, dissent and hardship not for individual glory but toward a common goal. When were we last this self-effacing, this optimistic, this outrageously can-do? A compulsively entertaining read.” —Alexandra Fuller, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

In the midst of the Cold War, against the backdrop of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the space race with the Soviet Union, and the Vietnam War, a band of iconoclastic American mountaineers set off for Mount Everest, aiming to restore America’s confidence and optimism.  Their objective was to reach the summit while conducting scientific research, but which route would they take?  Might the Chinese have reached the top ahead of them?  And what about another American team, led by the grandson of a President, that nearly bagged the peak in a bootleg attempt a year earlier?

THE VAST UNKNOWN: America’s First Ascent of Everest is New York Times-bestselling author BROUGHTON COBURN’s harrowing, character-driven account of this momentous climb and its legendary team of alternately inspiring, troubled, and tragic climbers who suffered injuries, a near mutiny, and death on the mountain.  It is also an examination of the profound sway the expedition had over the American consciousness during a time when the country was searching for its identity.

THE VAST UNKNOWN also investigates the expedition’s little-known outcome: the selection of a team to plant a CIA surveillance device on the Himalayan peak of Nanda Devi, to spy into China, where nuclear missile testing was underway. Packed with riveting adventure, THE VAST UNKNOWN brings the first American expedition to life and provides perceptive analysis of the climb’s dark historical context, just in time for the climb’s 50th anniversary this May.

About the Author: BROUGHTON COBURN, author or editor of seven books, including two national bestsellers, has worked in environmental conservation and development projects in the Himalayas for more than two decades.  In addition, he has directed projects for the World Bank, World Wildlife Fund, and American Himalayan Foundation.

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