Saturday, July 16, 2011

Everest: Reflections from the Top, edited by Gee, Weare, & Gee

Everest: Reflections from the Top, edited by Christine Gee, Garry Weare, and Margaret Gee celebrates fifty years of successful ascents of Mount Everest with a compilation of statements by summiteers of their thoughts about reaching the highest point on Earth. It has well over 100 entries from climbers around the world, including both famous mountaineers and hobbyist climbers. I feel that they did a thorough job of covering a range of perspectives from across Everest's summit's history, though I wish they would have tracked down a climber or two from China. They do include many climbers from Asia, however, and a number of Sherpas and other Nepalis.

The contributors average two or three paragraphs of writing, and provide anything from a straight telling of their last few steps to the top to philosophical statements about striving to the utmost. Pertemba Sherpa speaks of the dangerous job of portering and reminds us that those that help you have families that depend upon them. Stipe Bozic, on the other hand, says that climbers are crazy, but that his first ascent of the mountain was the happiest day of his life. A great many of the climbers, it seems, remember more of the mechanics of reaching the top than what was going on in their head, which is perhaps telling of the effects of the thin atmosphere upon their consciousnesses; most of the philosophizing comes from their later reflections on their climb rather than from the top of the world. In addition to the summit reflections, the book includes a foreword by Doug Scott and an introduction by Garry Weare. Scott suggests that difficult mountaineering is a throwback to humans early days of existence, in which our lives were full of risk and we spent a great deal of our energies on our survival. He also makes a corroborative point to what I just discussed, in saying that high on Everest, climbers leave behind nearly everything unnecessary for survival, including thoughts. Garry Weare's introduction outlines the history of climbing Everest, focusing somewhat on Sherpas, and also gives a brief lead-in to the book. If you're curious what you might get out of reaching the summit of Everest, this book will provide you a range of possibilities.

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