Sunday, September 11, 2011

Everest: The Struggle to Reach the Top of the World, by Geoff Tibballs

Geoff Tibballs writes a young adults' history of climbing Mount Everest in Everest: The Struggle to Reach the Top of the World. As a British author, Tibballs has a very British-centric view of Everest's history, with inclusions such as Rebecca Stephens (first British woman to summit), Alison Hargreaves, Stephen Venables, and Brian Blessed. Overall, it is written well, with only small errors that likely came from his sources or are typos---"Nunda Devi". (He includes a bibliography.) The print is quite small, I imagine to keep the book within page restrictions and include the wealth of photographic illustrations present. A couple of the illustrations are mislabeled, such as the "First Aerial Photographs of Everest" or "Hillary on the Summit of Cho Oyu." I appreciated, however, his search for some pictures that don't normally get used.

Tibball's history is thorough in the beginning, and picks winners towards today. He includes all the official expeditions up to 1953, Maurice Wilson, but not Earl Denman or Klaus Becker-Larsen. He is good a picking pertinent information, though he couldn't help including a relatively long section on the Abominable Snowman. He gives a good amount of space to the 1953 assault and tells the story well. In his later history, I'm not sure the Americans would appreciate having their climb lumped into the section "Chinese Footsteps" along with Wang Fu-Chou and Chu Yin-Hua or Junko Tabei would like to be know for having been "set" on the summit rather than climbing to it like her male counterparts. Tibballs includes Miura's ski descent, Boninton's expeditions, Messner / Habeler, the Kangshung Face expeditions of the 1980s, and a section on "New Ways to Conquer" regarding Everest stunts. Notably, women climbers are left "In the Footsteps of History," the following section. Oops. It's a shame---I'd like to recommend this book for its thoroughness, but it kept getting on my nerves, both for little mistakes or misjudgments and for chauvinism. Its publication year, 1998, also puts it a year ahead of the finding of George Mallory's body, and yet it somehow left out the 1996 disaster that was probably on a lot of its current readers' minds. My search continues for the perfect young readers' Everest history.

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