Monday, March 12, 2012

The Second Death of George Mallory, by Reinhold Messner

Reinhold Messner responds to the discovery of George Mallory's body in his 2001 The Second Death of George Mallory: The Enigma and Spirit of Mount Everest. He recounts the Everest climbs of Mallory as well as the major expeditions that followed his route in basic prose, quoting quite a bit from Mallory's letters home and the writings of his teammates. Tucked into the prose is a running commentary provided by Mallory's conjured spirit a la Messner, that comes off a bit awkward, more Messner than Mallory. There are chapters on each of Mallory's climbs, the 1933 British expedition, the 1960 and 1975 Chinese expeditions, a chapter on what Messner thinks happened on Mallory's summit attempt, and another on the 1999 discovery of his body.

The book doesn't contain any new information on Mallory or his climbs, but Messner's (Mallory's?) commentary makes for an interesting analysis. Messner does not believe that Mallory or the Chinese in 1960 scaled the Second Step, nor does he believe the Chinese found some old climbing gear above the Second Step. I get the feeling that Messner felt a bit defensive about the news circulating about George Mallory in 1999 and feels a special kinship with him as the other singular Man of Everest. The facts of the book regarding the early expeditions are sound, though Messner's opinion of the 1960 climb is a bit out-dated, as it was in 2001 generally accepted that three climbers made it to the top. I'm not a fan of this book (even read it a second time to make sure), but there's nothing really wrong with it. Maybe you'll like it!

This post is a revised and expanded version of an earlier entry, which can be found here.

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