The first time Terris Moore saw the magnificent Minya Konka was in March 1930. He was sitting in the cozy library of the Explorers Club in Manhattan, his head bowed over the book Trailing the Giant Panda, an account by two of Teddy Roosevelt’s sons of their experiences in western China and eastern Tibet. On the onion-skin map of their journey tucked behind the last page of the book was an indistinct sketch of a mountain, labeled Mount Koonka, height 30,000 feet above sea level. A curly question mark followed the measurement. “Is there really any chance Mount Koonka could be that high?” Moore wondered. Mount Everest—then considered the world’s highest peak—had been measured at 29,002 feet above sea level.
That question mark fascinated Moore. It kept drawing him back. For several years he had dreamed of climbing Everest, which had never been successfully scaled, but it wasn’t the mountain’s height alone that entranced him. It was the unknown.