Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Canadians on Everest (2006), by Bruce Patterson

Bruce Patterson tells the story of the 1982 Mount Everest expedition that put the first Canadians on the summit in Canadians on Everest. The expedition was a frightening example of the petty politics that tear a team apart, though enough of the team remains to place on the summit two Canadians, Laurie Skreslet and Pat Morrow, and four Sherpas, Sungdare, Lhakpa Dorje, Pema Dorje, and Lhakpa Tsering. Additionally, there are four deaths on the expedition in two separate incidents in the Khumbu Icefall. If you can believe it, the expedition went through three expedition leaders before the climb, and the person who secured the climbing permit gets kicked off his own climb. Soon after the expedition Al Burgess and Jim Palmer released the official expedition account, Everest Canada, that seeks to cover all the bases, but only thoroughly tells one side of conflict. Patterson, the journalist dispatched to the mountain to cover the expedition, due to book contracts, was only able to release the other side of the story in 1990, in the original edition of this book, released by Detselig Enterprises. I did not realize (I should have done my homework!) until I got to the Acknowledgments at the end of the 2006 edition, by Altitude Publishing, that what I read is actually an abridgment of the original with an updated Epilogue. Whereas Burgess relates his own experiences and quotes from the expedition diaries of others (focusing on the climbers he already knew), Patterson wrote and took notes the whole expedition and made it a point to get to know the climbers. His book focuses on Laurie Skreslet, Jim Elzinga, and Bill March, and it overall has a different flavor to the storyline than the official account. Perhaps he didn't realize it, but Patterson overlooks the intertwining of the Canadian expedition with Peter Hillary's Lhotse team, especially towards the end.

The book is well-written and entertaining. It gets a little journalist-dramatic at moments, but not often---there's little need, as the story is exciting enough already! It's one of the better journalist-on-Everest books, as Patterson strikes the right balance between a personal story and disaffected coverage. You can read other perspectives on the climb in (besides the official account) the Burgess twins' The Burgess Book of Lies, Peter Hillary's Ascent, Pat Morrow's Beyond Everest, and for brave kids, Laurie Skreslet's To the Top of Everest.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mount Everest, by Sven Hedin

In 1923, Sven Hedin released Mount Everest in response to the recent climbs on the mountain by the British. The tome is a collection of articles about Everest and its environs, including several commentaries on the expeditions in response to the news coming from the mountain. I read the German edition, though there are concurrent editions in Swedish and Czech. Hedin is well-versed in the history of exploration of the area, and he uses his knowledge to show that the British were perhaps not the pioneers they professed to be. In one article, he quotes manuscripts he viewed in Italy and Germany by Jesuit missionaries that profess strikingly similar itineraries as the British Mount Everest expeditions and even describe a mountain far taller than any other around it when they are in the region. Hedin additionally cites the mapping of the Everest region by Buddhist scholars at the behest of Jesuits in Peking in 1717, which later worked its way into D'Anville's 1733 Asian atlas. The author certainly has it out for these supposed experts, and he jibes them for anything from their big gaffs of claiming to be the first Europeans to travel the area and first to map it to a mildly unflattering bit of syntax by Wollaston in their newly released Everest: The Reconnaissance 1921. The final article is about the geological formation of salty lakes in Tibet, with Hedin trying to work out their origin.

His commentary on the climbs is a bit of fresh air from the propaganda machine of Younghusband. Whereas Younghusband expounds the heroic in his many writings, such as  The Epic of Mount Everest, Hedin provides a cold dose of criticism. His first article, written before the serious climbing commenced, cited the climb by the Duke of Abruzzi's expedition on Bride Peak, in which the party had to turn around almost at the summit at 24,000 feet due to the impossibility of venturing further. The British are over-proud to think that they can scale a peak of 29,000 feet! He also doubts the efficacy of a bottled-oxygen system, especially given its capacity-to-weight ratio at the current time. He, justifiably, complains that the British are saving Everest for themselves, and that there are a number of well-trained mountaineers from other countries who are equally or more capable of making an attempt. He has to retract some of his statements in later articles when her responds to the 1922 news of the British making it to 27,300 feet using supplementary oxygen and 26,700 without. He still withholds praise however. He remains doubtful that the British will make to the top anytime soon. Why not just use an airplane?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Greatest Adventures of All Time, edited by Sullivan & Andreas

Robert Sullivan and Robert Andreas present a showcase of The Greatest Adventures of All Time, and by that they mean the greatest adventures of the Twentieth Century. This volume was put out by Time LIFE books at the end of the century, I believe to highlight our fascination with adventure over the past 100 years. Sullivan, in the introduction, seeks to separate adventure from exploration using the concept of George Mallory's quote "because it is there." Adventure has no purpose beyond glory or excitement and is committed to regardless of financial gain, as in Ernest Shackleton's apocryphal newspaper advertisement: "Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success." The book contains expeditions based around water, land, ice, air, and space, and it sticks to the most famous explorers, including Shackleton, Heyerdahl, Peary, Armstrong, and Amundsen, with a couple surprises such as Matthew Henson, possibly the first man to stand on the North Pole. Each of the topics contains short histories of the expedition goals in addition to the adventurer profiles. Also, Will Steger is highlighted as a modern adventurer.

Regarding Everest, the authors include profiles of two climbers, Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner, in addition to a short history of climbing the mountain. The climbing history focuses on Mallory and Irvine, with an optimistic view of their climb. When the history makes its way to 1953, the section transitions into an extended interview with Hillary, "the World's Greatest Living Adventurer." The questions are meant for a general audience, and lead Hillary through his life and adventuring career roughly chronologically. The interviewer also asks Hillary about the recent commercialization of Everest, about Rob Hall (also a New Zealander), and the 1996 Everest mess. Messner gets a quick profile that talks a little bit about his career and highlights his 1980 solo climb of Mount Everest. The information presented is reliable, though general. Throughout the book, there are copious color photographic illustrations, including a suave current photo of Hillary and and a telephoto of Messner as a tiny dot ascending the North Col.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Many Mountains to Climb, by Stacy Allison

Stacy Allison, the first US woman to climb Mount Everest, turns her climbing life into allegory in Many Mountains to Climb. She takes episodes from her life, in approximate chronological order, and reflects on the lessons to be learned from each, based on the title of the chapter. She focuses especially on her two Everest expeditions, one in 1987 to the North Face under Scott Fischer and another under Jim Frush and Don Goodman during the 1988 post-monsoon circus in Nepal. The climbs conveniently contrast, with poor organization, teamwork, and weather in the first and a good overall climb (at least for her) in the second. Her advice is a mixture of personal, relationship, and corporate, and seems to be distilled from her many speaking engagements.

I'm not sure I liked this book terribly much. Though the book had order based on the time line of Allison's life, I felt that the reflections lacked focus or some sort of overarching principal that brought them together. Each of the sections has a number of different suggestions for the reader that loosely fit under the heading of the chapter, and she only rarely goes into detail on them. In contrast, Gary P. Scott's Summit Strategies has a set of ten lessons that are meant to build upon one another and are specific and detailed. Her narrative, on the other hand, was well-written and quite a bit more personal and personable than in her autobiography, Beyond the Limits. Though there's considerably less detail in this book than her biography, the writing is more natural and I hope a better reflection of the author's personality, since in Beyond the Limits, she seems to have several, some unpleasant.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Story of Everest, by W. H. Murray

W. H. Murray gives the history of climbing Mount Everest up to 1953, including his own participation in the reconnaissance of 1951, in The Story of Everest. In the first US edition, Murray updates his initial edition, which covered only up to the 1952 Swiss climbs, to include a chapter on the successful 1953 ascent under Col. John Hunt. He provides a climbers' perspective on the early history of the mountain, and his prose is clear and to-the-point. It is certainly better than Leonard Wibberly's The Epics of Everest, released about the same time, who trades drama for analysis. He covers all the expeditions from 1921 to 1953, giving the historically significant climbs several chapters each. He includes a brief summary of Maurice Wilson's attempt, but ignores Klaus Becker-Larsen's illicit foray into Tibet; Earl Denman still had not fessed up to his 1947 shenanigans at the time of The Story of Everest's publication.

The quality of the material is sound. He takes some easy answers for the early climbs, such as saying that George Finch was too sick to participate in the 1921 reconnaissance, but he makes up for it in his democratic treatment of the climbers, praising their work on the mountain without hyperbole and saying little of their reputations off the mountain. Murray takes a conservative view on the climb of Mallory and Irvine, but stands up for the strength of humankind in the oxygen debate. I was curious, based on his friendship with Michael Ward (A Thousand Years of Exploration), whether they would have similar opinions on Everest's history, but I found that they disagree on several conclusions, even regarding the 1951 reconnaissance that they jointly organized. His analysis has mostly turned out to be true, especially regarding the use of supplementary oxygen, though his weather and snow condition analysis has since turned out to be only somewhat correct. I was worried, based on the publication date, that this book would be a hastily thrown-together work meant to maximize profit, but I'm pleasantly surprised by its merit. It's not the best work out there anymore for Everest's early history, but it's worth a read if it's immediately available.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Alfred Gregory's Everest, by Alfred Gregory

Alfred Gregory finally presents a folio of his Everest photographs in Alfred Gregory's Everest. Previously he had turned over his negatives to the Himalayan Committee, and it was not until the 1990s that Gregory got to develop his own negatives and present his work on the 1953 initial ascent of Mount Everest. The collection shows the artistic as well as the photojournalistic view of this historic climb. There are many of the famous photographs associated with the climb, such as an exhausted Bourdillon and Evans upon their return from the South Summit, as well as a number of rarely-seen beautiful images, such a photo of ice pinnacles near Base Camp. Of course, there are no summit photographs in this work, but Gregory accompanied Tenzing and Hillary to their summit assault camp, and his work covers all but the final climb of the expedition. There is a foreword to the book by Jan Morris, who discusses the significance of the climb and the roles of the Everest journalists, including Morris, Gregory, and Tom Stobart. Gregory, in his introduction discusses his many trips to the Everest region and how it has changed over the 40 years between the climb and the publication of his folio. He also tells a couple interesting stories about the climb that eluded other chroniclers, such as listening to the FA Cup Final while at Lake Camp or a tale of a collapsing serac in the Khumbu Icefall.

The book is a a huge improvement over The Picture of Everest, the photo book released soon after the climb. The original was quite grainy, though there was some color printing. (Alfred Gregory's Everest is all black and white.) I can understand why Gregory would consider the current volume the first exposition of "his" work. He states in this book that the Times was primarily responsible for the early development of the photo negatives and that it was the first time they had worked in the 35 mm format. In addition to these two, Gregory's family released a posthumous full-color Alfred Gregory: Photographs from Everest to Africa in 2008. You can also read more about the joys of camera work on the 1953 ascent in Tom Stobart's autobiography,  Adventurer's Eye, or more about the joys of journalism during the climb in Jan (James) Morris' Coronation Everest.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest, by Tashi Tenzing

Tashi Tenzing, grandson of Tenzing Norgay, writes biographies of a number of famous Sherpas, many of them family, in Tenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest. Tenzing tells the story of climbing Mount Everest from the point of view of the Sherpas, based on interviews with the surviving members of the early expeditions and cultural and family histories. The result is a refreshing take on an often-told tale and a timely tribute to the unsung heroes of the mountain. In addition to the biographies, Tenzing chronicles the changes in Sherpa culture and families resulting from Himalayan mountaineering and discusses Sherpa climbers' motives and attitudes. Tenzing Norgay's biography features prominently in the book, but I appreciated most getting to know many of the lesser-known Sherpas, whose names appear often in mountaineering books, but who remain essentially anonymous to outsiders once off the mountain. Also, Tenzing includes the stories of his own climbs on Everest, including a 1993 climb he organized himself and a 1997 commercial expedition.

The book covers a multitude of Everest climbs, based on the Sherpas' biographies. It is a fitting role reversal to read details of the experiences of the local climbers and porters, while the foreign climbers often have mistakes in their personal information in the text. I found three climbs particularly interesting: Tashi Tenzing's two expeditions and a 1991 Sherpa / US climb in which the traditional climbing roles were reversed, with Pete Athans and other Americans providing porter support to Sherpa climbers. Tenzing's first expedition was an Australian national expedition that included Mike Groom (Sheer Will), Brigitte Muir (Wind in My Hair), and his cousin Lobsang. Groom and Lobsang make the summit, but tragedy strikes on the descent. Tenzing's second climb was as part of the 1997 Adventure Consultants' "Dream Team," a group consisting of Ed Viesturs, David Breashears, Guy Cotter, and Tenzing, meant to show that the business of climbing Everest is still on after the mess of 1996. I didn't realize before this that Breashears' Nova footage was actually shot under the auspices of Adventure Consultants. Overall, this is a great read and a long-needed book about the "other guys," who generally do the hard work of Everest climbs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wanda Rutkiewicz: A Caravan of Dreams, by Gertrude Reinisch

Gertrude Reinisch writes a tribute to one of the most accomplished female mountaineers in history in Wanda Rutkiewicz: A Caravan of Dreams. Reinisch displays the many paradoxes in the life of Rutkiewicz, who was torn between city life and mountaineering, love and ambition, and her hardcore principles and the realities of many of her climbs. Rutkiewicz had gathered a pile of papers and photos to one day write her autobiography, and after her death on Kanchenjunga, Reinisch, a friend and climbing partner, used these resources and others to tell her tale. At her death, Rutkiewicz had climbed more than twice as many 8000-meter peaks (nine) as any other woman, and was well on her way to achieving all fourteen summits. Additionally, she had made the second ascent of the North Buttress of the Eiger (after Messner & Habeler), and climbed the North Face of the Matterhorn in winter and the South Face of Aconcagua. Beginning in 1985, she kept a frantic pace of climbing, with an average of three expeditionary climbs every year; in 1991 alone, she made it high on the North Face of Kanchenjunga, summited Cho Oyu by the West Face and Annapurna by the South Face, and headed to Dhaulagiri straightaway only to find that the expedition had been canceled.

Wanda Rutkiewicz was one of the phenoms of Polish climbing. She started early in their expeditionary history, with the winter ascent of Noshaq in 1972, leading the 1975 first ascent of Gasherbrum III, and an attempt on Nanga Parbat in 1976. On international teams, she became the first Pole and the third woman to scale Everest in 1978 and the first woman and Pole to climb K2 in 1986. Her Everest ascent was a post-monsoon climb via the South Col under Karl Herligkoffer and Pierre Mazeaud's joint leadership, though she was appointed Deputy Leader. Her leadership became a point of contention within the expedition, and she was accused of not carrying her weight, but she pushed herself hard, filming as high as the South Col and reaching the summit. Like Jerzy Kukuczka, (My Vertical World) after some initial fame she had better luck attracting sponsors for her climbs, but she never had more that enough for the most basic of expeditions, and her gear was often cited as atrocious. On her later climbs, she found herself making devils' deals regarding filming compensation, where she would receive the money to pay for the expedition only if she made the summit. I can only wonder if she had just such a contract for her 1992 Kanchenjunga climb that cost her her life. The book is a realistic tribute, with both praise and criticism for this great climber who pushed the limits in more than just her climbs. It has color photographs (mostly by Rutkiewicz) throughout, and short contributions from a number of her associates towards the end. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Everest: Triumph and Tragedy on the World's Highest Peak, by Matt Dickinson

Matt Dickinson writes a tactile tribute to Mount Everest for young readers in Everest: Triumph and Tragedy on the World's Highest Peak. Dickinson creates an interactive book, with prayer flags, commercial expedition paperwork, a recreation of Maurice Wilson's diary, and other objects to remove and examine that make this more than the average kids' read. The book covers the history of exploring and climbing the peak as well as the story of joining a commercial expedition to reach the top. The author is a self-professed Everest fan (and real-life summiteer), and he believes that the mountain belongs to everyone, and that its appeal is universal. Instead of a straight telling of Everest's history, Dickinson opts for a sectional focus on interesting aspects of Everest and its climbing history, such as its mapping, the 1953 ascent, notable expeditions, Mallory / Irvine, and its natural and political surroundings. His commercial climb includes sections on equipment, camps, team interaction, and the 1996 disaster that he witnessed (in his The Other Side of Everest).

The book is a handy resource. His information is truthful and thoughtful. I appreciated his inclusion of the commercial expedition documents from Eric Simonson's International Mountain Guides service, as I had read about but never seen things such as physician's releases or body disposal election forms. This is one of the most mature takes on the task of climbing Everest that I've seen for young audiences, and I appreciated his balance of frankness and fondness for the subject. Additionally, his discussion of the complexity of many of the issues surrounding the mountain's history and climbing is a rare find among children's literature. I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Annapurna to Dhaulagiri, by Harka Gurung

Annapurna to Dhaulagiri, by Harka Gurung, records a decade of mountaineering in Nepal, from 1950-1960. The book is a government document released by the Ministry of Information in Kathmandu, and it summarizes the expeditions that had so far climbed in the country and their accomplishments. The title is, of course, a reference to the first and last 8000-meter summits to be climbed in Nepal, and it reinforces (for me) the short time it took to climb all eight summits (and 13 of the 14 total in the Himalaya) for the first time once Annapurna had been ascended. Also of note is the few expeditions that occurred. 1955 had the most climbing expeditions, with fifteen, covering the far west of Nepal to Kanchenjunga, which is less than the number of expeditions to Mount Everest in any given year recently. 1956, in contrast, had only two: to Everest / Lhotse and Manaslu.

This is a bare-bones resource, and as such, is not particularly useful for Mount Everest research. Major expeditions, such as the 1953 Everest ascent get a page. (The 1951 reconnaissance, notably, gets more space.) Small expeditions may get a paragraph, or less. The information is accurate, however, with a few obvious typos. On Everest, Gurung naturally covers the 1950 and 1951 reconnaissances, the 1952 attempts, the 1953 ascent, the 1956 Swiss double ascent, and the Chinese and Indian expeditions of 1960. He sticks to the skeptical western view of the time regarding the Chinese ascent. He is almost less skeptical of the existence of the Yeti, which he discusses in an Appendix as cogent material regarding the expeditions that had come specifically to search for the beast. He also includes a select bibliography and another appendix that lists the peaks over 7000-meters and the year and nationality of their ascents, if there is one. The most interesting feature of this book (I believe) is Gurung's personal photography and drawings of the major Himalayan peaks, with some well-done (traced?) line drawings, and several color photographs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Day to Die For, by Graham Ratcliffe

A Day to Die For tells the story of Graham Ratcliffe, a member of Henry Todd's team who was also on Mount Everest's South Col on May 10, 1996 during the storm that killed eight people. By a twist of fate, he and his fellow clients arrived on the Col just as the storm was attaining its full force and the first of Scott Fischer's and Rob Hall's expedition members were returning to their tents, and yet knew nothing of the tragedy unfolding right next to them until the next day. Ratcliffe tells the full story of his relationship to Mount Everest, including his 1995 ascent via the North Col / Northeast Ridge, the 1996 disaster, his subsequent South Col attempts from Nepal in 1997, 1998, and 1999, and his later haunting fixation on and research into the events of 1996.

His 1995 ascent sounds like a happy time and hard climb. He makes his summit climb during the pre-monsoon season in great weather along with Anatoli Boukreev and Nikolai Sitnikov under Henry Todd's Himalayan Guides service. He socializes with Tom Whittaker (Higher Purpose) and Alison Hargreaves (Regions of the Heart) and also manages to catch an early ride home with Paul Pfau's American team, that happened to include George Mallory, climbing in memory of his grandfather. During a Christmas climb on Aconcagua, Ratcliffe realizes no Brit had yet climbed Everest from both Tibet and Nepal, and he quickly books a second climb with Henry Todd.

His 1996 climb is an enlightening take on Henry Todd's expedition as well as a mature front-row seat view of the tragedy that killed or injured members of three other teams climbing from Nepal. A previous account from Henry Todd's team was written by Mark Pfetzer (Within Reach), but Pfetzer was quite young at the time, and his narrative gives little information outside his own actions. Brigitte Muir, another teammate, has also written a book about her Seven Summits climbs, Wind in My Hair, but I have not yet read it, and can't comment on it. Cathy O'Dowd and Ian Woodall, the only other outside observers on the South Col to publish a book about their climb (Free to Decide), focus, like Pfetzer, on their own experiences in their writing, but occasionally mention the other teams to take jabs at them. Ratcliffe, though he focuses on his own experiences as well, looks out at what transpires around him, and he explores both his own culpability in the events as they unfold and the interrelation between his team and others on the mountain. It takes him several years of simmering, as well as a chance encounter with some disturbing information, before he realizes that there was likely more to the tragedy than an unexpected storm.

Ratcliffe seems like more of a dedicated than talented researcher. After finding his kernel of information that he believes will change the narrative of the 1996 tragedy, he jumps into the detail work while waiting to get to the readily available books and resources that would later provide him many of the clues to solve his mystery. I'm also not sure why he felt he needed to know all the details before he asked any of his fellow 1996 climbers any questions. Many of the letters and conversations he quotes make him sound more confrontational than curious. It felt to me that he was trying to set up a court case against someone rather than seeking the truth. I would have been loathe to respond to such inquiries as well. His efforts ultimately lead to the truth of the matter, but it seemed to me a grand effort for little consolation. The book kept my interest throughout, and I enjoyed reading it---I just feel bad that his methodology might have actually hampered him or prolonged his travails. If Into Thin Air and The Climb left you unsatisfied, this book is definitely worth your time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What It's Like to Climb Mount Everest . . . and Other Extraordinary Stories, by Jeff Belanger

Jeff Belanger probes the experiences of people in difficult situations in his What It's Like to Climb Mount Everest, Blast Off into Space, Survive a Tornado, and Other Extraordinary Stories. His book for young teens tells the story of real people who have either challenged themselves or faced challenges, such as surviving a shark attack, walking across the United States, or flying with the U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The stories are all recent, and are told in first person. Belanger gives each tale several pages, and the protagonists are able to speak in some detail about their experiences, especially about their thoughts and feelings during their ordeals. There are color photographic illustrations throughout, and each section contains a short update or biography of each of the main characters at the end.

The Everest section details the story of Mark Inglis, the first person to climb Mount Everest with two prosthetic legs. The book actually covers both his climb on Mount Cook that cost him the lower half of his legs to frostbite as well as his later climb of Everest. He climbs Everest from Tibet via the North Col and Northeast Ridge in the pre-monsoon season of 2006. Most of the thoughts he shares could be true for any climber on Mount Everest, such as the challenges after the Second Step being as much or more mental than physical or his being overwhelmed at the sight of the mountain from the Pang La. He shares about the difficulty of descending, however, as his artificial legs are designed for uphill or flat walking. Also, he breaks a leg in a fall, but is able to patch it up with duct tape for later repairs lower on on the mountain (possibly the only advantage of a prosthesis on Mount Everest). For a more detailed account of his trip up the world's highest mountain, try High-Tech Legs on Everest, by Inglis and Sarah Ell.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I'll Call You in Kathmandu: The Elizabeth Hawley Story, by Bernadette McDonald

A character in nearly every Everest book, (who has somehow never even been to Base Camp) Elizabeth Hawley is the subject of Bernadette McDonald's I'll Call You in Kathmandu. Hawley is the de facto chronicler of Himalayan climbing within Nepal, creating files for each climb based on interviews she conducts in Kathmandu. Everest books are filled with stories of climbing leaders arriving in Kathmandu, checking into their hotels, sitting down on their beds or drawing a bath, and the phone rings; when they pick up, it is invariably Miss Hawley calling. She is both feared and respected by Himalayan climbers, as she has the journalistic power to make climbers famous and the wit and wisdom to keep them honest. She is known to be direct, thorough, badgering at times, critical, but honest. Her journalistic accounts generally lack any sort of evaluation of a climb, but she is scrupulous with the details. 

McDonald reveals much in this book that surprised me. Hawley originally emigrated to Kathmandu to report on political and practical matters in a small country in transition caught between both China and India and the U. S. S. R. and the United States. She originally had no concept of climbers or Himalayan climbing and wasn't particularly interested. She worked many jobs to support herself (as she began only as a part-time reporter for Time, Inc), including under Jimmy Roberts at his trekking agency and Edmund Hillary for his Himalayan Trust. She was able to scoop the news on the 1963 American Everest expedition through contacts at the American Embassy and later on a personal ham radio. She didn't begin to focus on climbing news, however, until her Nepalese journalistic license was revoked after a scoop on some sensitive political news.

Hawley's records on climbing in and around Nepal are thorough and exciting (well, at least for the researcher!). Thanks to the partnership of Richard Salisbury, her records are now available on CD-ROM, with updates available for download at the Himalayan Database website. McDonald is careful to frame Hawley's biography around the bigger picture of Kathmandu and to include a wealth of climbers' experiences with her. The book, unfortunately, poo-poos many of the myths about Hawley's personal relationships with climbers, but her humorous comments about these men more than make up for the disappointment. I, personally, appreciated McDonald's compare /contrast of Hawley and Audrey Salkeld. I would take either of their jobs, as chroniclers and historians of high-altitude mountaineering, in a heartbeat, and I was enthralled to read what they think of each other. I hope you enjoy this book---I found it fascinating.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Man Who Skied Down Everest, by Miura & Perlman

Yuichiro Miura and Eric Perlman tell the story of Miura's speed skiing descent from the South Col to the Western Cwm in The Man Who Skied Down Everest. Miura was a competitive speed skier, often coming close to the world record for fastest descent. He decides to explore the possibilities of speed skiing off-course, and after a quick descent on Mount Fuji, he sets his sights on the Himalaya. His contacts tell him the best skiing would be on Manaslu, but he also finds that, unless he has the money to pay for the trip himself, only a ski descent on Mount Everest will land him enough sponsors to get to Nepal. Miura is a novice at both expeditionary climbing and planning, and he faces a steep learning curve during his attempt to reach the world's highest ski run.

Despite his lack of experience, he manages to achieve quite a bit. He slowly lures sponsors to his side, gathers a team to help him organize the trip and climb to the South Col in the pre-monsoon season of 1970, and eventually signs a media contract with a film company to cover the balance of his expenses. (The film is also called The Man Who Skied Down Everest.) He survives his many experiments with his diet, and gets to the mountain the fittest of his team. The Sherpas even tell him he must have been a Yeti in his past life. He makes many ski runs around Everest and climbs Pokhara Peak as acclimatization, and then heads up the Western Cwm to check the condition of his run (the snow gully between the Lhotse Glacier and the Geneva Spur). While there, he can't help himself, and he constructs a ramp to do some ski jumping. He heads up to the Col to make his run. His descent is less-than-graceful, as the parachute he designed to slow his progress does little to help him in the rarefied air of the high Himalaya. After a terrifying fall, he screams to a stop just above the bergschrund, bruised but otherwise uninjured.

Throughout the book, Miura quotes the Samurai master Musashi's treatise on the art of Bushido, the way of the warrior. Miura can trace his lineage back to the times of warring clans, and its clear that he tries to recapture a bit of his heritage by facing his opponent (his ski descent) like the warriors of old. I'm not certain that I agree with his methodology or application, but I respect his urge to connect with his family roots and his questing to discover the depth of his devotion. It's notable that after his Everest run, Miura survived both the fastest speed skiing fall (at an earlier competition) and the highest, on Mount Everest.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summit Strategies, by Gary P. Scott

Gary P. Scott helps you climb your personal Everest in his Summit Strategies. The book is one of a number of books in the genre I have heretofore ignored in my Mount Everest reading, that of the self-help or inspirational reading. (No excuses---most of them are not expensive or hard to find!) Scott breaks down his advice into ten lessons, framed around the story of his experiences as a member of the 1991 American Everest Expedition that scaled the South Col-Southeast Ridge route. Each of the lessons, with titles like "Overcome Your Fear" or "Believe in Yourself," is explained through the climbing experiences of Scott and others. At the beginning of each section, there is an inspirational quote, and at the end, Scott provides bullet-points of advice on how to apply the lessons to your own life and efforts.

Scott believes that people must follow their passions. Each of the lessons provides advice that intends to get you closer to your life goals, beginning with choosing appropriate objectives and ending with seeking the peace of mind to enjoy your accomplishment. I appreciated his section, "Lighten Your Load," in which he discusses the potential of material possessions to hold you back from your goals, as well as his ending discussion of achieving the state of mind to enjoy what you have accomplished, rather than needing to jump immediately on another goal. For my personal Everest, the reading of and writing about all published Everest books, I took to heart his advice on finding my pace. I find that my relatively rigid credo of having a book read and a post ready every two days (except during illness or vacation) fits my need for order and reliability, but that I sometimes set aside a book I would like to read that is relatively long in favor of shorter material that will allow me to keep up the pace. In the future, I will aim to follow my reading instincts (another lesson in the book) rather than stress out about an artificial schedule.