Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dead Lucky, by Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall is the author of several books about mountaineers and Everest, including Dead Lucky, the tale of his own near-death experience high on the mountain. Hall has come a long way since writing White Limbo, which details in a fun and passionate style his first Everest climb 22 years earlier by a new route and without supplementary oxygen; his writing in Dead Lucky is more reserved, mature, and analytical, and yet I found it both engaging and entertaining.

Hall's brush with death occurs during the controversial 2006 climbing season, in which 10 people died, including David Sharp, who faced quite similar circumstances to Hall. Dead Lucky focuses on the personal experiences of the author, and it does not give thorough analysis to any of the other events on the mountain. Because Hall was there, however, his book does provide a unique perspective.

Hall climbed the traditional North Col-Northeast Ridge route to the summit as a client of the 7Summits commercial operation and also a cameraman for a documentary about the potential youngest summiteer of Everest. As both the editor of a national outdoor magazine and an author, he could not commit time to the climb until he knew for sure that he would be going. Sponsorship for his portion of the trip came through only two months before departure, and he scrambled to prepare his body for the punishment it would receive.

He finds the commercial expedition life to be a stark contrast to his earlier climb. I found it quite interesting to read his analysis of the commercial life, responding with both intellegence and humor. He was considerably more gracious to his fellow climbers than Greg Child in Postcards from the Ledge.

The conclusion and the epilogue made the book for me. I'll share just a little bit that I couldn't hold back:

"It is the tragedies more than the triumphs that maintain Everest's aura. The mountain is a mirror, where climbers look to find themselves. They discover their fraility, take heart from their strengths, drink deep of the insights. But if the mountain was to have a perspective, it would be that humans are the dust on the surface of the mirror---readily wiped away by storms, hardly relevant in scale, ephemeral in the scope of the mountain's existence. "

For a good introduction to Lincoln Hall's Dead Lucky, see The Mountain Library.

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