David Noland writes a guidebook to some of the world's most exciting adventures for the hard-core traveler in Travels Along the Edge. He gives the readers 40 possibilities to push themselves to their personal limit while seeing some of the most beautiful places in the world, such as canoeing the Zambezi River, mountain biking the Dominican rain forest, skiing to the North Pole, or, of course, climbing Mount Everest. Each of the sections contains a short narrative from someone who has actually accomplished the task, followed by a list of outfitters who specialize in that particular trip, and then a section on what to expect on your journey.
The section on Everest begins with the tale of Bob Hempstead, another character who earned a place, along with Tom Whittaker of my last post (Higher Purpose), in Greg Child's Everest story in his Postcards from the Ledge. Hempstead became the highest rope-slinger in North America after doing a rope trick on Mount McKinley, and then the Western Hemisphere after another stunt on Aconcagua. He then sets his sights on being the highest rope-slinger in the world atop Everest. He signs up with an Everest outfitter, and then heads off to the north side of Everest in 1995. After a month of drudge work carrying supplies up the mountain, he sets out for the summit with an impromptu team he met at the high camp. Just shy of the summit, he slips to his almost certain death, but snags on the edge of a cliff. Greg Child and a Sherpa, Babu, happen to be at the scene, and drop him some rope to help him back up to the ridge crest. He hobbles to the summit, does a little trick, and escapes with his life.
After the story, Noland goes on to explain the ins and outs of choosing a side to climb and an outfitter to use. The South Col is a technically easier, but perhaps more dangerous route. The North Col is relatively cheaper, but saves most of the difficult climbing for the end. He lists a number of outfitters, including Adventure Consultants and Himalayan Experience, and lists their current pricing as well as their histories.
Noland puts no icing on the cake with what the climber should expect. Death is the first item on the list, and he tells of the 1996 disaster as an example and gives the statistic that for every four people who have made it to the summit, one person has died trying. Misery makes a close second, with physical strain, bitter cold, fear, wind, and pain. He says that high-altitude climbing experience is highly recommended but is not required, citing Peggy Gudgell's success in 1988 after only climbing in the continental US before making it. I found the advice given by Bob Hempstead, the man who was rescued by two others after his fall near the summit, quite ironic: "The secret to success on Everest is that, in the end, you've got to look out for yourself." Good thing the guys who saved him didn't listen to the same advice!