Monday, February 27, 2012

The Boldest Dream, by Rick Ridgeway

Rick Ridgeway tells of the trials and success of the 1976 American Bicentennial Everest Expedition in The Boldest Dream. He bills the expedition as the first amateur Everest expedition, but it is more accurately the first successful amateur expedition, organized and run by what we would today call "weekend warriors" who happen to have a couple connections in Kathmandu, State Department letterhead, and a lot of luck. To defray much of their costs, they have a major TV network film their ascent, but they find the cameras rolling at all the worst moments. Ridgeway, as well, focuses on the interpersonal conflict between the team members, swear words and all. While an interesting change from the sterile accounts of the 1950s, I felt like the pendulum swung a little far. He intersperses into the narrative entries from the diaries of the climbers, which often offers marked contrasts to the fights.

They climb in the post-monsoon season, and their ascent is a race against time. Many in the team have trouble relating to the Sherpas, and a general animosity arises between the expedition and their hired help. They originally planned for many in the team to attempt the summit, but the logistics don't quite work out. Ridgeway claims that their two summit climbers took the first video footage at the summit, but the Chinese in 1975, the Americans in 1963, and the Indians in 1965 also did. Originally, Arlene Blum, according to her Breaking Trail, was to write the book about this expedition, but she later turned it over to Ridgeway. I find it interesting to speculate about what her book would have been like. Ridgeway's is a pretty good read, though I felt a bit voyeuristic during a couple of the fights. 

This post is a revision and expansion of an earlier post, which can be found here.

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