Sunday, January 22, 2012

Legs on Everest, by Mark Inglis

Legs on Everest, written by Mark Inglis, tells the story of his ascent of the north side of Everest in 2006 under Russell Brice, the first climb of the mountain by a double amputee. Inglis' boyhood dream was to climb Mount Everest, but 13 days in a snow cave near the summit of Mount Cook during a record storm in 1982 caused him severe frostbite, and cost him his lower legs. He eventually returned to mountaineering, scaling Mount Cook again in middle age, and then Cho Oyu, with his sights set again on Everest. The book is set up as a travel diary, recording both his Cho Oyu and Everest climbs. He's not your average inspirational figure, swearing and complaining quite often in the text, but his heart is in his climbs, and he uses his climbs to raise funds and awareness for the Cambodian Trust, a charity that serves fellow amputees.

Inglis happens to climb the mountain during the controversial 2006 season, and even climbs past David Sharp. As a trained search and rescue climber (pre-1982) and an experienced mountaineer, Inglis knows the odds of helping someone in Sharp's condition and position down the mountain. Due to his prostheses, he is unable even to approach him, yet Inglis receives a lot of media attention for doing nothing for Sharp. Someone on Inglis' team later tries to help Sharp, but he was almost certainly beyond saving before Inglis approached him.  Inglis' summit climb comes at a physical cost, and he has a difficult descent. The non-media people who contact him after the climb are almost universally supportive. On his way back to Base Camp, he passes Lincoln Hall, who would also later write about his own troubled descent in Dead Lucky. Inglis' book isn't a riveting story, but it is fascinating to read how a double amputee overcomes the odds and a lot of doubters to achieve his dream.

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