Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Within Reach: My Everest Story, by Pfetzer and Galvin

Mark Pfetzer, along with Jack Galvin, writes about Pfetzer's quest, at age 15, to climb Mount Everest in Within Reach: My Everest Story. It was never his goal to be the youngest to climb Everest, but he doesn't see any reason why his age should hold him back. His youth doesn't hurt, however, in his quest for sponsorship. It's interesting reading this book now that the youngest title is so hotly contested (see Romero's The Boy Who Conquered Everest or Vajpai's On Top of the World). He goes off like gangbusters, climbing his first mountain at 13 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and climbs higher and higher until he is on an Everest expedition at 15, after some encouragement by Geoff Tabin (Blind Corners), among others. It's quite exciting to read about the kid who has a dream and goes for it with gusto! This is marketed as a children's book, but it's written well enough to be enjoyable by all ages.

Pfetzer's Everest climb is a mystery to me. He climbed via the South Col from Nepal during the spring of 1996 under Thor Kieser, and gets tangled into the May 10th disaster. According to his book, he and his teammates were on the South Col when the storm hit, but had pitched their tents well away from the other teams. I find it amazing that even though this crew is in the same place at the same time as everyone else, I don't recall hearing about them in any of the other books I've read on the 1996 season. There's not really a good way to discuss the end of Pfetzer without ruining it, but it is interesting to read about the 1996 disaster almost from an outside perspective, since no one in his team is hurt or participates in the rescue. He hears intermittent radio messages about people missing and knows something's going wrong, but it seems that no one in his camp ever considers interacting with the other teams, and they turn back on May 11th because of the weather, not because of the disaster. Once down, he gets a lot of media attention, since he's the boy wonder, but he somehow stays away from the action even though he's in the thick of it and doesn't have much to say. He considers returning for his summit attempt, and I'll leave it there.

My original post on Within Reach can be found here.


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