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.

No comments:

Post a Comment