Saturday, October 1, 2011

Points Unknown, edited by David Roberts

David Roberts compiles a collection of some of the best English-language true adventure writing in Points Unknown: A Century of Great Exploration. Roberts is a former climber and his collection reflects his own history, with nearly a quarter of the entries telling stories from the mountains. He includes a wide range of interests, however, with polar journeys, caving, deserts, oceans, and jungles. All of the chapters in this collection are book excerpts. As Roberts is a great adventure writer, he has a nose for good stories by other authors, and he picks a fine collection of both popular and cult titles.

Roberts chooses a number of Everest-related titles. I was happy to not read another Ascent of Everest excerpt here! Instead he chooses two famous, yet considerably more dramatic stories that take place on Mount Everest: Noel Odell's account of Mallory and Irvine's disappearance into the clouds in 1924 and Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld's traverse of Everest from the North Face to the South Col. Roberts includes Odell's entire chapter on Mallory and Irvine's summit climb from The Fight for Everest, from his ascent to Camp V to his analysis of their odds of making the top. Hornbein and Unsoeld's climb comes from Hornbein's Everest: The West Ridge, and Roberts includes their climb from their top camp at the future Hornbein Coulior to the end of their bivouac, along with Lute Jerstad and Barry Bishop at a record 28,000 feet. There are a number of other titles about Everest climbers in Roberts' collection, including Eric Shipton (1933, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1951) and Bill Tilman's (1935, 1938) ascent of Mount Kenya in Shipton's That Untravelled World, Tilman and Odell's (1924, 1938) climb in The Ascent of Nanda Devi, Tom Patey and Don Whillans' (1971, 1972) attempt on the North Face of the Eiger from Patey's One Man's Mountains, Art Davidson's 1967 winter climb of Denali along with Ray Genet (1979) in Minus 148 Degrees, Peter Boardman (1975, 1980, 1982) and Joe Tasker's (1980, 1982) climb of the West Face of Changabang from The Shining Mountain, and Jon Krakauer's (1996) climb of the Devil's Thumb from Eiger Dreams. Also of Everest interest, Tim Cahill, the screenwriter for Breashears' Everest IMAX film, provides a story on caving in Kentucky from Jaguars Ripped My Flesh.

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