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About The Book

Travel to the top of the world’s highest mountains with this this riveting and uplifting memoir that “is a rare mix of heart-stopping adventure and powerful self-reflection” (Johanna Garton, author of Edge of the Map) by Vanessa O’Brien, record-breaking American British explorer.

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, Vanessa 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, Vanessa 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, Vanessa 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, To the Greatest Heights is a “vicariously engaging addition to the literature on mountaineering as well as a beacon of inspiration” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

About The Author

Photograph by Penny Vizcarra at PV Public Relations

Vanessa O’Brien is a British and American mountaineer, explorer, public speaker, and former business executive. As a result of her dual nationality, she became the first American and British woman to successfully summit K2 on July 28, 2017 when, on her third attempt, she successfully led a team of twelve members to the summit and back. In 2018, she received Explorer of the Year from the Scientific Exploration Society for her efforts. In 2022, Vanessa became the first woman to reach extremes on land, sea, and air, completing the Explorers’ Extreme Trifecta after passing the Kármán line on Blue Origin’s sixth human spaceflight, NS-22. She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Scientific Exploration Society (SES).

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (March 30, 2021)
  • Runtime: 11 hours and 55 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797107868

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Raves and Reviews

"In a multilayered performance, narrator Vivienne Leheny encapsulates O'Brien's drive, guts, spirit, and wicked sense of humor. Leheny's delivery captures the fear of avalanches, the misery of high-altitude ailments, the frustration of failure, the exhilaration of reaching the top of Everest, and loads of self-deprecatory moments. A particular high point is Leheny's rhythmic chanting of "99 bottles of beer on the wall" as O'Brien trudges to the peak of Everest in the dark after losing her headlamp."

– AudioFile Magazine

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