Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quest for Adventure, by Chris Bonington

Chris Bonington sizes himself up against a range of modern adventurers in his Quest for Adventure. He includes trips across the globe, including journeys on mountains, across oceans, through deserts, in the air, and to the moon in this anthology. Bonington, thankfully, chooses original prose and analysis over the tradition of excerpting the work of others, and he works lessons from his 1975 Southwest Face expedition into his evaluations. In addition to an introduction to himself, the goals of the book, and the adventures ahead and a conclusion that seeks to distill all the adventures down into something they share, there are two Everest-related chapters: one on the 1953 British ascent of Everest, and a chapter about Messner's solo ascent of Nanga Parbat.

I truly enjoyed reading a fairly thorough analysis of the first ascent of Everest by another famous Everest leader. Bonington gives his take on logistics, strategy, climbers, in addition to several smaller facets of the climb. I especially appreciated his comments on Hunt's strategy and leadership. Bonington's focus on the leadership of the expedition included a specific (with names named) telling of what went on in the Himalayan Committee that caused Shipton's ouster and Hunt's placement as leader as well as analysis of many crucial moments in Hunt's leadership of the climb, including during the preparations, his leading from the place of action during the climb, and his role in Britain after the climb was finished.

The chapter on Messner's climb of Nanga Parbat includes plenty of Everest material even if it is focused on another mountain. Bonington includes comparisons to Wilson, Denman, and Larson before heading into a biography of Messner that centers on Messner's relationship to Nanga Parbat, including the 1970 climb in which he lost his brother, his attempts to return, and his eventual solo ascent in 1978. Bonington includes Messner's two Everest climbs in short prose, telling that Messner heard of his acceptance to climb Nanga Parbat while on his first trip to Everest in which he climbed along with Peter Habeler without supplementary oxygen. Bonington also ends the chapter writing about Messner's solo ascent of Everest in 1980, and contrasting it to the large, military-style expeditions that had made it to the top so far.

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