Friday, March 16, 2012

Climbing High, by Lene Gammelgaard

Lene Gammelgaard writes about her climbing and survival during the 1996 Mount Everest disaster as a part of the Sargarmatha Environmental Expedition under Scott Fischer in her Climbing High. Her book is one of the most level-headed accounts of the events of 1996, and she clearly states her motivations, emotions, and actions. She planned to climb Everest without supplementary oxygen, partly as a kick start to open the European market to Mountain Madness, Scott Fischer's mountain guiding operation, with Gammelgaard as the company's representative, and also to be the first Scandinavian woman to climb Mount Everest. I appreciated her candid writing about the events on the mountain, generally without harsh judgments of the climbers around her. She supports the climbers around her and even forgives Fischer after he forces her to make the climb with oxygen.

Gammelgaard's is a unique perspective among the many books available about the 1996 disaster. She was the only female participant to write a book-length account of events, and she also avoids placing blame in her book, making her book a refreshing change from Into Thin Air and The Climb. I did feel a bit frustrated trying to get to know more about her background, as she hints at experience in the Himalaya, but Everest is her first attempt at an 8000-meter peak. Also, I would have liked to know more about her history with Scott Fischer, as there were hints of this as well. Fischer's biography, Mountain Madness, also mentioned little of his trip(s) to Denmark, and seemed to get information about Gammelgaard from her book. I found it interesting that she overlooks the presence of Mike Groom in the huddle on the South Col, an that she saw Sandy Pittman and Lopsang climbing separately on summit day. She understands but doesn't always support the actions of Fischer, and she often sticks up for Anatoli Boukreev when he faces criticism. There is very little information on Rob Hall's Adventure Consultants' expedition in this book. Other accounts of the events of 1996 include Mike Groom's Sheer Will, Goran Kropp's Ultimate High, O'Dowd and Woodall's Free to Decide, and most recently Ratcliffe's A Day to Die For.

1 comment:

  1. Just read this book cover to cover in under 24 hours this weekend, Lene is a true inspiration to women, she gives a good account of her expedition and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.