Terrified of heights, Dr. Tim Warren, a Rhode Island chiropractor and endurance athlete, undertook to cross the Knife Edge, an elevated catwalk that connects two lesser summits of Maine’s 5,267-foot Mt. Katahdin. The trek, with its thousand-foot drop-offs on either side, frightened him to his core. Backing off, he was embarrassed as he watched his hiking companion, and then a troop of 12-year-old Boy Scouts, easily make the crossing. Realizing that his inability to do the same was not because of the inherent difficulty of the task, but was “all in his head.” He vowed that his mind would become, rather than a saboteur, an asset in his life. Eighteen-years later, he was making his second attempt at the summit of Mt. Everest.
Warren’s detailed record of his successful climb, gives readers an inside look at the workings of the human body, mind, and spirit, as they tackle a task that pushes them beyond their perceived limits, and into a humbled awareness of strength and grandeur, beyond comprehension.
Those who wonder why one would risk brain damage, loss of limbs, and even death, to climb to the highest point on the planet, may find their answer in Warren’s changed attitude to life:
As soon as I said ‘I summited,’ I became so choked up I couldn’t speak…I knew then and there that I would be forever changed…I simply could not look at the world and my place in it in the same way. Challenges and problems would for ever more be stacked up against ‘Everest’ and would lose their power and magnitude.
Warren has distilled what his adventure taught him into “Seven Steps to the Top of Your World.” Stated as an addendum to his tale, they lead readers to consider what their own personal “Everest” might be, and advise loving the work involved, enjoying the ride, adding a ‘smidgen’ of hope, being grateful along the way and mindful of the present moment, and battling the inevitable let-down that comes when a goal has been achieved by planning ahead for one’s next “Everest.”
Told in language that is, at times, poetic, and often grittier than some readers will enjoy (the author may wish to consider a version for younger readers that eliminates the expletives), the tale brings one to feel the cold seeping though the body, the gut-wrenching effects of altitude and bad food, and the ease with which one can slip from a precipice, or out of one’s mind. Written in the author’s voice, and from his viewpoint, the story still presents some of the effects of politics and culture on the climb. The addition of other viewpoints, especially those of the Sherpa guides, would further expand the book’s interest.
The cover and design are appealing, but the photographs that illustrate the book are somewhat grainy, and would benefit from heightened contrast —one would even hope for color given the awe-inspiring nature of the mountain, called by the locals, “Chomolungma: The Mother Goddess of the World.”
Dr. Tim Warren has been to a place “where humans are not supposed to be,” and looked death in the eye; the challenge of writing this book was, in his words, his “next Everest,” and his question to readers is, “What will be your Everest?”