Thursday, January 13, 2011

The High Lonesome, edited by John Long

John Long's The High Lonesome is a collection of solo climbing stories on both rock and ice collected from climbing journals and a couple books. The book contains three Everest-related articles, about the climbs of Reinhold Messner, Alison Hargreaves, and Maurice Wilson. Additionally, several other Everest-related writers contribute, including Greg Child, Pierre Beghin, Annie Whitehouse, Mark Twight, and Wilfrid Noyce. Another author, Ivan Ghirardini, makes a cameo in Ned Gillette's and Jan Reynold's Everest Grand Circle, when they come across him at his base camp below Makalu, waiting for an extension for his winter climbing permit. Of these, I have read and will be writing about the stories excepted from magazines, because I will be covering the books in their entirety at a later date.

Alison Hargreaves' article for The Alpine Journal recounts her unsupported ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen in the spring of 1995 from the north. It's a bit of a general telling, but it does give an impression of the overall personality of Alison Hargreaves. We are lucky to have this document, since days after writing it, she climbed to the top of K2, never to return. I got a feel for her sense of organization and her work ethic, and a slight feeling that she felt more alone than she actually was. (Besides Russell Brice, the expedition leader, and her business agent in London, Richard Allen, no other name makes it into her article!) Two months ago, I reviewed Rose and Douglas' Regions of the Heart, a pretty good biography of her. There is also a book by her husband, Jim Ballard, that I have not yet read, One and Two Halves to K2.

Lawrence Millman contributes an article originally found in Summit magazine about Maurice Wilson: "Our Man in Everest: Maurice Wilson Surfaces Every Few Years, Only to Be Dutifully Reburied." I was hoping for an extended article on the "after" life of Maurice Wilson and the people who have recommitted him to the glacier, but instead this is a semi-decent article of biography on Wilson with a paragraph at the end about his reburials. Millman gets the basic ideas right on Wilson, but his facts are occasionally squirrel-y, such as his flying all the way to Darjeeling (actually, Bombay), or his hiring two Sherpas at the Rongbuk monastery (actually, Darjeeling) to help him climb. Additionally, he did not provision himself on the mountain with merely rice-water, as Millman purports, nor did he disguise himself a Sherpa (actually, a Buddhist monk) on his trek through Tibet. Maurice Wilson has a couple books written about him, both out-of-print and somewhat expensive, including Dennis Roberts' I'll Climb Mount Everest Alone and Ruth Hanson's Maurice Wilson: A Yorkshireman Climbs Everest. I've previously reviewed Harry Roskolenko's Solo, which contains an excerpt of Roberts' work.

You may remember Pierre Beghin from his participation (his two companions summitted) in a one-day climb and descent of Mount Everest in 1986 via the Japanese and Hornbein couloirs. This climb is profiled in Fanshawe and Venables' Himalaya, Alpine-Style, among other places. His article for the American Alpine Journal covers his earlier solo post-monsoon ascent of Kanchenjunga in 1984. It's a short article (three pages), covering the approach, his setting up camps, his first attempt, and the eventual ascent. I realize he made it back down, but I felt "left in the dark" as he ended the article on the summit with night approaching.

Mark Twight made tracks on Everest in a simul-solo climb with a friend in 1988 up an unclimbed route. His "Solo on the Charmoz" is an article for Climbing magazine. It tells of his solo alpine ascent of a difficult ice route on the Grands Charmoz. Towards the top, the ice is rotten, and he descends in a blizzard, often rappelling of single anchors to stretch his resources. His style is more modern and somewhat conversational, and it's a quick and enjoyable read.

Tomorrow, an Everest classic!

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