Sunday, October 31, 2010

two more kids books, and the end of Chisholm

I finished Chisholm's To the Summit. This book was just a summit for me. I think a lot of people who are really in to themselves and need lots of reassurance might enjoy seeing one of their own climb on Everest and elsewhere, but she really weirds me out, and I enjoyed much more reading about that other expedition that just wasn't fur her (where everyone was just too focused on the mountain) in Kamler's Doctor on Everest. Chisholm attempts Everest in 1992 and 1993 via the South Col and returns for a trip to Base Camp in 1995. Her first trip is under Todd Burleson, and her second with Hall and Ball. She makes it to Camp II the first time and halfway to Camp III the second. I'm continually amazed at people who can finance not only trips to Everest but trips around the world to climb on all seven continents. She completes five of her seven summits is just over a year, having climbed Kilimanjaro on her first mountain climbing trip a few years earlier. She leaves her mountaineering quest unfinished, but is happy with her accomplishments.

Mary Ann Fraser writes and illustrates Hillary and Tenzings final approach to the top of Everest in her On Top of the World. The information presented is pretty accurate and is well-written. The illustrations are mostly accurate, excepting the picture with Hillary and Tenzing posing for the famous summit photo together, with Tenzing holding his ice ax in the air and Hillary wrapping his arm around Tenzing's shoulders.

Richard Platt's Everest: Reaching the World's Highest Peak reads a bit like a magazine, with lots of side notes and illustrations, and each page spread containing a different subject about Everest or mountaineering in general. The information is general, but accurate and the illustrations have similar qualities. It gives information on the early mountaineering history, pioneering expeditions, has several pages on the first successful expedition, notes on several subsequent expeditions, (including the American expedition of 1963, the British Southwest Face expedition), and a lot of information related to the area as well, such as how the Himalayas formed, and how electricity is generated in the area. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

More children's books, a lesson in Buddhism, and multiple personalities

I'm further along in Margo Chisholm's To the Summit and finished Jamling Norgay's Touching My Father's Soul. Additionally, I've blazed through a few children's books, including Steven Jenkins The Top of the World, S. A. Kramer's To the Top!, and Stephen Venables' To the Top. 

Venables' To the Top looks to be a companion work to his Summit of Achievement, but it does not focus as exclusively on the Royal Geographic Society's archives. He includes a lot more information on other climbs, including his own Kangshung Face expedition, and speaks in more plain, but not oversimplified, language. It's refreshing to read a children's book (like Salkeld's) that contains correct information, and whose author does not speak down to its readers.

Kramer's To the Top! is a retelling of the story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and their climb to the summit in 1953. It's not a good book, with a lot of misinformation, and illustrations that improperly depict events. For example, Kramer says that they used ladders to bridge crevasses, when they only brought one ladder to test the idea, and used logs for all but the longest spans. If we are to believe the narrative, the expedition arrives at the South Col together, and then Hillary and Tenzing leave the next day from the camp higher up. Also the illustrations incorrectly depict Hillary falling into the crevasse in the Icefall with his oxygen set on, and then climbing out with both crampons, and also both men parading through Kathmandu together after their successful ascent.

Jenkin's The Top of the World is a theoretical climb that assumes the climber is on a guided expedition taking the South Col route. It talks down to the reader a bit, but over all is not that bad of a book. The illustrations are well done.

I've come around on Jamling Norgay's Touching My Father's Soul. At first the book annoyed me, but I think it's more the audio book's reader's twit-ish snobby accent (think NPR's Stephen Beard) that makes me take what's being said the wrong way. It's the first time I've listened to an audio book since high school, and it took me a while to separate the reader from the author. I really enjoyed hearing about Everest and expedition life from a Tibetan Buddhist's perspective, as well as insights into Sherpa beliefs and emotions. It's really nice to have someone separate Sherpa, the job, from Sherpa, the person, since so often Western authors represent them as something less than whole people. The book also provides an education on the Sherpa spiritual world, and several perspectives on Jamling's father and family that I have not encountered elsewhere. In addition to a Sherpa perspective the the 1996 Everest tragedy, he also provides insights into the IMAX Everest expedition. He's considerably more thorough than Ed Viesturs since it is Jamling's one Everest climbing expedition and the framing narrative of the book, whereas Viesturs covers many climbs in his similarly-lengthed No Shortcuts to the Top.

Chisholm's To the Summit really freaks me out. (Chisholm starts with my previous post.) I'm not quite finished, and not quite to the Everest part of the book, but I've already had enough of her "Inner Family:" Miggie, Martha, The White Ghost, Jonathan, God, and friends. I doubt she realizes it, but she is a really creepy lady! She gets over her drug, alcohol, and food addictions, only to become addicted to adventure travel and develop multiple personalities as coping mechanisms. She doesn't seem to realize that she's replacing one crutch with another, and it worries me that she works to become a counselor. (Chisholm continues here.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Venables, Chisholm, Norgay, and the kids!

I discovered that my commute also makes for good reading time, at least for the few Everest books on tape. I'm two CDs into Jamling Norgay's Touching My Father's Soul. Additionally, I finished a paper copy of Venables' (et. al.) Everest: Summit of Achievement. I also discovered a wealth of children's books on Everest at the local library (even the crazy Canadian's!) and am reading Margo Chisholm's To the Summit at work, since I might get a reputation carrying around kids' books in front of my coworkers.

Venables pulls together a history of Everest based on the Royal Geographical Society's archives, especially showcasing its wealth of expedition photographs. Though the photographs are beautifully presented and interesting, the prose is somewhat general, and I mainly found the pseudo-interview with Reinhold Messner about the future of Everest entertaining. I appreciated the attention shown to Ang Tharkay in the history of Everest. I also liked that one of the writers acknowledges that Hillary's work after summiting Everest was just as important as his auspicious climb.

Laurie Skreslet tells the watered-down tale of the Canadian Everest Expedition of 1982 in his book To the Top of Everest. I suppose that I was wrong earlier that he asserts that kids can climb Everest, the book is merely published by Kids Can Press. I think to the uninitiated, this book would be largely confusing and somewhat frightening. Though I'm happy he leaves out the soap opera from his narrative, he also ditches details that help things make sense, and does not always explain things that non-mountaineers might not know about. It's also a bit jarring to see the body of Pasang Sona being evacuated from the Khumbu Icefall in a children's book.

A stark contrast is Audrey Salkeld's Climbing Everest. The narrative is intellegent, basic, but not oversimplified or boring. The photographs are interesting and well-taken. Instead of a general history, Salkeld focuses on historic climbs, that of Mallory, Norgay, the Chinese 1960 expedition, Messner, the Kangshung Face expedition, and the 1996 tragedy, which are alternated with page-long sections of other topics of interest. I am very happy to see the Chinese expedition included, and I can't believe I'm getting my first details of the climb from a children's book! Bonington's The Climbers acknowledges it and talks about his meeting one of the climbers in 1982, and I've read a sentence or two about it here and there, such as in Nick Heil's Dark Summit, but so far I've found few mentions, and they are all nearly worded the same, as though they all came from some original source that was also sparing on the details (American Alpine Journal, perhaps?).

Jamling Norgay's Touching My Father's Soul is a frustrating read so far. I want to be sympathetic to him, but he keeps lying and making insipid remarks. He calls himself the climbing leader of the IMAX expedition, which was actually Ed Viesturs' job, says that it is his job to carry the camera to the summit (which another Sherpa did), and then he tries to lie to his wife about Rimpoche's divination. He can't make up his mind about his religious beliefs, and blames his father for his lack of faith. His story is most interesting when he talks about other people, and based on all the self-doubt he's presented so far, I can't imagine how he got up that mountain. (Norgay continues here.)

Chisholm's To the Summit is so far as much a rehab story as it is a climbing story. It makes for an interesting bend in what could have been another "I went to Everest, and then I wrote a book" story. I'm not that far into it yet, but really, 70 laxatives in a day? Yikes! Everest should be a cinch compared to that! Chisholm continues here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Everest: The Canadian Soap Opera, etc.

I finished Pfetzer's Within Reach, (which begins here) and have since read Burgess/Palmer's Everest Canada and Al Gregory's The Picture of Everest. There's not really a good way to discuss the end of Pfetzer without ruining it, but it is interesting to read about the 1996 disaster almost from an outside perspective, since no one in his team is hurt or participates in the rescue. He hears intermittent radio messages about people missing and knows something's going wrong, but it seems that no one in his camp ever considers interacting with the other teams, and turn back on May 11th because of the weather, not because of the disaster. Once down, he gets a lot of media attention, since he's the boy wonder, but he somehow stays away from the action even though he's in the thick of it and doesn't have much to say. He considers returning for his summit attempt, and I'll leave it there.

The Canadian Expedition of 1982 is definitely the biggest mountaineering soap opera I've ever encountered. Even the guy who gets them the permit in the first place is first voted out of leadership of the expedition, and then ejected from the team altogether at Namche Bazaar (by the third team leader)! The team members bicker their way through the Khumbu Icefall at the tail end of the monsoon, and first three Sherpas are buried in an avalanche, and then as they start things back up Blair Griffiths is killed by a falling ice wall. This leads to more bickering, and several members leave the expedition, and somehow those remaining pull themselves together and heave two Canadians and four Sherpas to the summit, with the help of another expedition. I'm a bit worried that one of the guys that summited wrote a book about how even children can climb Everest; given the conduct of this crew, I'd believe it.

Al Gregory pulls together the photographs of the successful 1953 expedition for a pictorial journey to the top of the world. I have the feeling his later book is probably more worth while, since photo printing has come a long way since 1954. It's an enjoyable quick read, but the resolution and the colors of the photographs are appropriate to the age of the book. There are some remarkable photographs from the South Col upwards that I had not seen before here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

almost youngest on Everest

Kenneth Kamler's Doctor on Everest is done, and I've started in on Mark Pfetzer's Within Reach, as long as I'm reading 1996 books. Kenneth's was a unique perspective on the 1996 tragedy, since he's so far the only doctor on the mountain to write about it. He climbs with Pete Athans and Todd Burleson and is at Camp III when the poop hits the fan. Pete Athans and Todd Burleson head up to the Col, and he heads down to Camp II to set up the world's highest hospital. He treats the walking wounded, and then prepares for Makalu Gau and Beck Weathers who are being escorted down. He treats and thaws Makalu first, with extensive frostbite on his hands, feet, and face, wraps him up, and then works on Beck, who is much worse off. His perspective also provides a unique angle on the Japanese woman who mysteriously disappeared from the credits of the IMAX film (and I'm forgetting her name at the moment!), as she tends to Makalu, and brings handwarmers to keep the IV fluids thawed. I hope I'll get to know her better when I get around to David Breashears' High Exposure, since she only gets a passing mention even in Viesturs' No Shortcuts to the Top

Pfetzer is a total mystery to me. According to his book, he and his teammates were on the South Col when the storm hit in 1996, but I don't recall hearing about them in any of the other books I've read. It will be interesting when I get to that part. Pfetzer tries to be the youngest to climb Mount Everest, or rather uses his age to win sponsors in his quest for Everest. It's interesting reading this book now, when other teens are vying for the same title. He goes off like gangbusters, climbing his first mountain at 13 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and climbs higher and higher until he is on an Everest expedition at 15. It's quite a story to read about the kid who has a dream and goes for it with gusto! This is marketed as a children's book, but it's written well enough to be enjoyable by all ages. (Pfetzer continues here.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Doctor on Everest...again?

Bonington's The Climbers is done and gone, as well as Ed Viesturs' Himalayan Quest. Bonington writes an enjoyable book, but with limited scope, covering only the Alps and the Himalayas and focusing primarily on European ventures. Himalayan Quest is a picture book released a couple years ahead of No Shortcuts to the Top, and Viesturs acutally still has Nanga Parbat and Annapurna to summit. It's a quick read and has interesting graphics on the less-covered 8000-meter peaks, such as Manaslu and Hidden Peak. I think after reading several 14 highest books, I've acutally got the peaks down. I wish there was more to read on Manaslu and Dhaulagiri. They seem like interesting places to travel, and I'll bet the trek in is amazing! This morning I started in on Kenneth Kamler's Doctor on Everest. I wonder if he and the publisher thought his was the first book with this title...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

First American Woman on Everest, etc.

I finished Sandy Allison's Beyond the Limits and have started in on Chris Bonington's The Climbers. I'm not sure I'm impressed by Sandy Allison's personality, even if she is a strong climber at altitude. She seems very in to herself and "winning" and getting a title, and doesn't understand when other women act the same way. I'd say "hooray" for her accomplishment, but the book seems to be as much about her internal workings as it is about her external mountain climbing. It will be a while before I pursue her other book. The Climbers is interesting read, so long as you do not take it as a general history of mountain climbing, but as a history of the mountain climbing that interests Chris Bonington, and so far comes off as very English and European centered. It will be interesting to see what kind of role he places his own expeditions into the grand scheme of things once I make it that far along. Cheerio!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

no end in sight...

Some day I'll fix my computer, but probably not anytime soon. I finished Norton as well as Hillary's Schoolhouse in the Clouds and I've started in on Stacy Allison's Beyond the Limits. I can't say that I'm any more interested in the early British expeditions than I was before I read Norton. I guess it will take a few more tries. Hillary's book is a great read to see what good can come of climbing Everest. He could have used Everest to line his pockets, but instead he works hard to help the Sherpas who helped him to the top. He precedes Greg Mortensen by 40 years in his quest to bring education to Central Asia. Allison's book has so far been interesting. Her co-author is a man, however, and he doesn't consistently get a feminine tone across. It weirds me out. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Still no computer...

I'm still without a functioning computer, so just a quick note. I've read Major H. P. S. Ahluwalia's Higher than Everest and have started in on Norton's Fight for Everest 1924. Ahluwalia's is an interesting account from a unlikely source. After summitting Everest in 1965 with eight of his Indian countrymen, Ahluwalia returns to his job in Kashmir and is thrown to the front lines in the Kashmiri war, only to be shot in the neck. In addition to his account of Everest, the story includes details of his recovery and life after an injury that brings him to the brink of death. His tale of his rehabilitation puts the struggle of Everest in perspective. While a lofty goal and a major undertaking, summitting Everest is a voluntary goal and a relatively short effort compared to the gradual and painful recovery of Ahluwalia's spinal injury.

I'm not sure why I've put off all Mallory books for so long. I think perhaps because there are so many, and they all seem so similar. I figure that before I get started on the recent literature, I should get some perspective from his comrades and read the original account of his disappearance. Then, perhaps, the 1921 reconnaissance expedition, and then I'll get in to the mess of things!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Arrgh! Computer malfunction!

Just a quick note to let you know that my computer is currently out of commission. In the meantime, I've read Ed Webster's Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everest and Lou Whittaker's Lou Whittaker: Memoirs of a Mountain Guide. I hope to have things going again soon.