Thursday, July 14, 2011

Seven Summits, edited by Steve Bell

Steve Bell's Seven Summits provides a general reference and testimonials about climbing the highest peak on each continent. The book is quite well done, with forewords by Dick Bass and Pat Morrow (the first to climb each version of the seven summits), Gerry Roach's tale of his early completion of the climbs, a reference on each of the summits by Bell, and testimonials on each peak by people who have completed the seven climbs. Bell picks a variety of contributors, with many lesser-known adventurers from around with world, as well as a couple standards.

Because of my habit of reading Everest books, I had actually heard of all of the contributors save Josep Pujante, whom I now know is a prolific climbing author (writing in Catalan). I was excited to read the contributions of the climbers who, like Pujante, have only released books about their climbs in languages I do not read, including Viki Groselj, Ricardo Torres Nava, Junko Tabei, Ronald Naar, and Arne Naess. It was also nice to get a take from climbers who have not yet published books on their climbs, such as Ginette Harrison and David Keaton. Brigitte Muir, author of Wind in My Hair, contributes an article on her many climbs of Australia's Kosciuszko. David Hempleman-Adams, author of Toughing It Out, gives an extended take on his climb on Vinson Massif. Doug Scott, author of Himalayan Climber, tells of his expedition to Carstensz Pyramid. There are several other contributors, and they all write about their experience on one of their seven summits.

There are five testimonials about Everest, including Gerry Roach's complete set story. Gerhard Schmatz writes about his 1979 post-monsoon international expedition to Everest, in which his wife, Hannelore, dies along with Ray Genet on the descent. His was the first expedition in which all the climbers made it to the summit, the smallest successful expedition (later exceeded by Reinhold Messner, in The Crystal Horizon), as well as the fastest at the time (32 days, later exceeded by Shin Seung Mo's crew, in Orient Express to Crystal Summit). Junko Tabei tells about her 1975 pre-monsoon expedition, in which she was the first woman to climb to the summit. I was grateful that she focused on the details of the team's preparation, as the story of her climb can be found in other sources. She had quite an unusual method of finding climbers, and the team had to work quite hard to save money, and by extension weight of their supplies, before their departure. Bell also includes entries from Yasuko Namba's journal from her fatal 1996 Everest climb. She had some reservations and was quite lonely in her team of English-speakers. Jeff Shea writes about his 1995 pre-monsoon climb via the North Ridge. I appreciated a different take from this relatively well-documented climbing season (Greg Child, Allison Hargreaves' biographers, Tom Whittaker, and several others have written about it). Gerry Roach includes the stories of his 1976 attempt, as part of the American Bicentennial Everest Expedition (in Rick Ridgeway's The Boldest Dream), as well as his successful pre-monsoon summit climb in 1983 along with David Breashears, Ang Rita, and Larry Nielsen.

1 comment:

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