Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The end of Norgay, an angry Messner, and the worst book ever

I finished Jamling Norgay's Touching My Father's Soul, I read Messner's The Second Death of George Mallory, and I survived reading Andrew Donkin's Danger on the Mountain. 

Jamling Norgay has many lessons to share on Buddhism that mountaineers and many others will find insightful and relevant. After the expedition, he returns to Kathmandu, and retells the rest of his family story up to the present, including the details of his father's life after Everest, the deaths and funerals of his parents, and the futures of their children. I suppose the publicists added the bit about "climbing leader" on the dust jacket, because he doesn't really get into that bit in the book. Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

I blazed through Reinhold Messner's The Second Death of George Mallory in two days. It's a relatively short book, and it looks like it was formatted to look a little longer than it is. It appears that Messner felt like he needed to reply to the news of the discovery of Mallory's body and perhaps also found an opportunity to rant. He recounts the climbs of Mallory as well as those that followed on the north side in basic prose, and includes excerpts from the diaries of Mallory and his teammates. He also adds his own (I mean...Mallory's spirit's...) personal feelings about what transpired throughout the book. There's not really any new information in the book, but it is interesting to see what Messner has to say about things, especially about the Chinese expeditions of 1960 and 1975. He also includes a chapter on the 1999 expedition that found Mallory's body.

...and the worst book I've ever read about Everest is.....Danger on the Mountain! Yea! It has all sorts of fun facts for children to learn, including: the elevation of Mount Everest is actually 29,050 feet (which is true if you round to the nearest 50, but who does that!?); Sandy Irvine had been on several Everest expeditions before 1924; after climbing out the the crevasse near the North Col, Mallory was only one day's climb from the summit; climbers must wade through hip-high snow to reach the Khumbu Icefall; and the 1953 expedition used rope ladders to bridge the crevasses in the Icefall. There's lots of half-true stuff that's not worth mentioning, and a bit of a faux pas when Donkin says that Tenzing worked as a Sherpa, and then he became a climber. The best idiotic moment in the book is saved for the Karakoram, with a picture of what I believe is the Trango Towers, which is labeled as K2, the world's second highest peak! Way to go, dude!

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