Friday, December 17, 2010

The Mammoth Book of Mountain Disasters, edited by Hamish MacInnes

Hamish MacInnes exhibits his storytelling skill in The Mammoth Book of Mountain Disasters. He pulls together magazine articles, book excerpts, and a couple unpublished works to create an exciting collection of mountain rescue stories. The Mount Everest portion (pages 317 - 324) tells of the loss and search for Tony Tighe at the end of the 1973 British Southwest Face expedition from the perspective of MacInnes, himself.

I was excited to find out that MacInnes talks first about his participation, along with Doug Scott and Don Whillans, in the 1972 European Southwest Face Expedition and his general distaste for Karl Herrligkoffer, its leader. A while back, I was disappointed when Doug Scott spoke only briefly about both this expedition and his harrowing escape from the Ogre in his autobiography, Himalayan Climber. Perhaps he does not like to dwell on unpleasant moments! MacInnes only provides a few extra, but entertaining, details on the 1972 expedition, but later in the book, he also gives good space to Scott's Ogre epic.

The Tony Tighe incident is well-known to Chris Bonington fans as his second end-of-expedition disasters. Both on Bonington's 1971 Annapurna South Face Expedition with Ian Clough and his 1973 Everest Southwest Face Expedition with Tony Tighe, the mountain exacts a price seemingly after the game's over. Though Tony's responsibilities are in base camp, at the end of the expedition Bonington allows him to climb the Khumbu Icefall to get a look at the Western Cwm while the high-altitude Sherpas make a final carry to clear Advanced Base Camp. The Sherpas pass Tony on the way up and do not see him on the way down, but a large section of overhanging ice has collapsed in the meantime. MacInnes gives details of the search for Tony from his own perspective as well as a couple statements from Doug Scott. Though a short account, his perspective differs slightly from Bonington's, such as more detailed descriptions of the condition of the icefall the day after the incident. Also, he tells a fun bartering story about Doug Scott and a hard-dealing Sherpa.

A lengthier account of both the incident and the entire expedition are found in Bonington's Everest: Southwest Face; also, an entertaining read about the life and climbs of Bonington and his friends, including the 1973 Southwest Face Expedition is Clint Willis's The Boys of Everest.

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