Two mountains, Two mountaineers, One Extraordinary Moment. Dan Szczesny and Ed Webster.
Here in Maine, we all know Ed Webster who got his start climbing trees in Lexington Massachusetts. His lifelong love of rarified views from the top includes 7 Himalayan expeditions 3 of them on Mt. Everest. It was his 1988 ascent of Everest for which he is best known in the climbing community and beyond. Long before the world began to examine the ethics of large heavily equipped climbing expeditions Sherpa guides and bottled oxygen, Ed and three others did the unusual. They formed a small climbing group and sought out a new route to the top without use of radios or local guides. Their expedition is recounted in Ed’s book, Snow in the Kingdom, My storm years on Everest. These days Ed shares his love of climbing with the next generation of climbers through his programs and lectures at schools and libraries from his home base of Topsham and Harpswell Maine. I met him years ago at his lecture and book signing at the Topsham Library. He’s one of America’s best known mountaineers.
That very same Topsham library recently hosted Dan Szczesny in the first Maine stop of The White Mountain book tour for one of America’s best known mountains, Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Dan’s book, The White Mountain: Rediscovering Mount Washington’s Hidden Culture began as a concept focused on the mountain but it expanded rapidly as he allowed the quest to be shaped by the many people personally touched by the mountain. The journalist/reporter side of Dan kicked in and the finished product presents an extraordinary cast of characters and their association with the mountain.
That they would meet each other face to face was inevitable. The two men share common paths as touring authors and lecturers with a strong desire to share the love of “their” respective mountain. And those two mountains couldn’t be more different. Everest, inaccessible to all but a few. Mount Washington, accessible by foot, car, cog railway and snow coach in the dead of winter. World famous, the cog railway has been a tourist attraction since its 1800’s endorsement by then President Ulysses S Grant. Mount Everest has its own share of legendary stories.
While Ed Webster was celebrating the 30th anniversary of his Everest climb, Dan Szczesny was on his way to celebrating the 3rd printing of his book. And so, when I saw Ed heading over to Dan’s table after the talk, I knew we were about to experience one extraordinary moment in Southern Midcoast Maine.
This article was originally published in the May 2019 edition of The Cryer.