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Ed Webster, Who Defied Odds on Everest, Dies at 66

In 1988 along with four others, Ed Webster established one of the most bold routes ever ascended on Everest

Ed Webster, who pushed the limits of what was possible on Mount Everest in 1988, has died at the age of 66. He was born on March 21, 1956, in Boston and grew up in Massachusetts before moving to Colorado where he earned a degree in anthropology in 1978.

Webster was known as a compassionate climber who mentored countless people over the years. He had an impressive record of first ascents across western and eastern U.S.A., as he was part of a group of leading climbers who established cutting-edge lines and then documented them in now classic guidebooks, such as Rock Climbs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Climbing in the Magic Islands to the Lofoten Islands of Arctic Norway.

“Several steps later, I was also avalanched. I brushed myself off. We continued,” Webster wrote in Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Mount Everest. With American Robert Anderson, Canadian Paul Teare and Brit Stephen Venables, Webster made the first ascent of the Kangshung Face on Everest – considered one of the last great problems in the range. The route followed a line up the isolated side of Everest in Tibet, and the team went without radios, supplemental oxygen or Sherpas.

Ed Webster on Everest in 1988

To this day, their four-person group is the smallest unsupported team to establish a new route up Everest. Venables became the first Briton to summit Everest without bottled oxygen, while Webster led the way to safety with no food for four days in an effort Sir Chris Bonington hailed as, “One of the greatest survival stories in the history of Himalayan mountaineering.” Webster went on several other Himalayan expeditions over the decades.

Webster was also an award winning photographer, who’s work was featured in Rock & Ice, Rolling Stone and the New York Times. He was also one of only three mountaineers cited in Trivial Pursuit, with his Everest frostbite injuries being noted in the “Best of the 80s” edition.

Webster after the FA of Cactus Flower Crack in 1977. Photo by Mark Rolofson

In his book Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Mount Everest, Webster wrote, “I saw the flowers growing alongside the trail. Big, beautiful blooms of rhododendrons and azaleas. Pink, red, and white bouquets of richly perfumed flowers reached out to me, as if in answer to my revived optimism. I entered the thickets of flowers like I was wading into crashing waves at the beach, letting myself be alternately immersed and then carried up by their sweet fragrance and vivid color.”

He was the recipient of the American Mountain Foundation’s 1988 Seventh Grade Award for outstanding achievements in mountaineering; the American Alpine Club’s 1990 Literary Award; and American Alpine Club’s 1994 David H. Soules Award for saving the life of a fellow climber.

Below is a presentation that Webster gave about his new route on Everest. Our condolences to Webster’s family, climbing partners and friends.