Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Epic of Mount Everest, by Sir Francis Younghusband

If the official accounts of the Mount Everest climbs of the 1920s were a little too dry and lengthy for you, but you still want the feel of an older book, try out Sir Francis Younghusband's The Epic of Mount Everest. He takes the official accounts of the 1921 Reconnaissance, the 1922 Assault, and the 1924 Fight and distills them down into a 300-page unified narrative, pouring on the drama. Everest readers will remember Younghusband for his 1904 campaign through Tibet to Lhasa to secure British interests in the country, his chairmanship of the Mount Everest Committee, and his Forewords of the Everest accounts of the 1920s and 1930s.

The book does add some information to the literature of Everest. Younghusband includes his perspective as well an account of his participation in these early trips. He tells of the formation of the Mount Everest Committee and writes about the choosing of leaders for the expedition (which differed slightly from other sources). Though the storyline is taken direct from the official accounts, Younghusband often adds analysis or explains things for the uninitiated. His narrative is quite Mallory-centric, and he uses quite a bit of superlative when describing the climbers and their actions. The part I appreciated most was Younghusband's inclusion of the eulogy given by the Dean of St. Paul's (who somehow surpasses Younghusband in his grandiose style). I found the gathering of the climbers of all three expeditions, the royal family, and the members of the Alpine Club and Royal Geographical Society to celebrate the fallen a much better end to the story than the varied appendices at the end of Norton's 1924 Fight for Everest.

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