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Powell's Books Presents Vanessa O'Brien in Conversation With Phil Powers
Long before she became the first American woman to summit K2 and the first British woman to return from its summit alive, Vanessa O’Brien was a feisty suburban Detroit teenager forced to reinvent her world in the wake of a devastating loss that destroyed her family. Making her own way in the world, O’Brien strove to reach her lofty ambitions. Soon, armed with an MBA and a wry sense of humor, she climbed the corporate ladder to great success, but after the 2009 economic meltdown, her career went into a tailspin. She searched for a new purpose and settled on an unlikely goal: climbing Mount Everest. When her first attempt ended in disaster, she trudged home, humbled but wiser. Two years later, she made it to the top of the world. And then she kept going. Grounded by a cadre of wise-cracking friends and an inimitable British spouse, O’Brien held her own in the intensely competitive world of mountaineering, summiting the highest peak on every continent, and skiing the last degree to the North and South Poles. She set new speed records for the Seven Summits, receiving a Guinness World Record and the Explorers Grand Slam, and finally made peace with her traumatic past. During her attempt on K2, she very nearly gave up. But on the “savage mountain,” which kills one out of every four climbers who summit, O’Brien evolved from an adventurer out to challenge herself to an explorer with a high-altitude perspective on a changing world — and a new call to share her knowledge and passion across the globe. Told with heart and humor, O’Brien’s To the Greatest Heights (Atria/Emily Bestler) is a transformative story of resilience, higher purpose, and the courage to overcome any obstacle. O’Brien will be joined in conversation by Phil Powers, owner and operator of The Mountain Guides and former CEO of the American Alpine Club.

Apr 1, 2021 05:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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Vanessa O’Brien
Vanessa O’Brien is an American-British mountaineer, explorer, public speaker and former business executive. In 2017, she became the first American woman and the first British woman to successfully summit K2. Vanessa was named Explorer of the Year in 2018 by the Scientific Exploration Society. Vanessa is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and an advocate for woman’s causes. She lives in New York City and London with her husband, Jonathan.
Phil Powers
Phil Powers led dozens of expeditions to South America, Alaska and Pakistan’s Karakoram Range, including ascents of K2 and Gasherbrum II without supplemental oxygen. He made the first ascent of the Washburn Face on Denali, the first ascent of Lukpilla Brakk’s Western Edge in Pakistan, and the first winter traverse of the Tetons’ Cathedral Peaks. Powers is author of Wilderness Mountaineering and Climbing: Expedition Planning. He is the recipient of the American Mountain Foundation’s VIIth Grade Award; the AAC Mountaineering Fellowship Grant; among other honors. He received the American Alpine Clubs highest award for service, the Heilprin Award, in 2012. He served as the CEO of the American Alpine Club from 2005 to 2020 and has owned and operated The Mountain Guides, which operates four guiding locations in the American West, since 1998. Still an active skier and climber, he and his wife split their time between a home in Vermont and a Yurt in Wyoming.