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.

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