Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Conquest of Everest, by Mike Rosen

I thought I'd do another pair, so here's another young readers' book about the history of climbing Mount Everest with a conquering title, Mike Rosen's The Conquest of Everest. This one reads at about the same level as Brian Williams's Conquerors of Everest, but it overall has more information, and it's a little more entertaining. Additionally, it was written later, and it brings the reader a little more up-to-date. Rosen has a much better comprehensive history of Everest than Williams, including sections on Shipton's 1951 Reconnaissance, some information on the Swiss (though he reverses the order of the expeditions), gives more information on the 1975 Southwest Face expedition, and includes a section on the 1975 expeditions that included female summiteers. Additionally, Rosen includes relatively (pub. 1990) recent milestones on the mountain, including Messner's solo ascent and attempts upon the Northeast Ridge direct. Like Williams' book, Rosen spends a relatively large amount of space on the 1953 ascent.

Like William's book, Rosen includes a page of infamy. Though he really only has little slips here and there, the "Faces of Everest" page is a little frightening. According to this page Woodrow Sayre Wilson (actually Woodrow Wilson Sayre) made an illegal attempt in 1954 (actually 1962), which caused Nepal to close the mountain for two years (the Americans climbed Everest the following year), and Chris Bonington led a "small" team in an attempt on the Southwest Face in 1972 (actually 1973 and relatively large).

I want to like this book---I wish it was a little more accurate. The history is overall more balanced and comprehensive than any other kids' Everest climbing history I've read, but the fiction in the book deals it a heavy blow. Rosen is clearly well-read in Everest literature, and I respect a fellow Everest reader. Perhaps a second, revised and updated edition is in order!

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