Sunday, April 22, 2012

Danger on the Mountain, by Andrew Donkin

Andrew Donkin writes a reader for advanced grade school children about climbs on four mountains, including Mount Everest, in Danger on the Mountain: Scaling the World's Highest Peaks. Donkin includes the stories of the 1953 American K2 expedition, Roger Mear's ascent of Mount Erebus during the dark Antarctic winter, Piana and Skinner's free-climb of the Salathe Wall of El Capitan, and a limited history of climbing Everest. The book is set up with a main body of text, some sidelines of related information, and a mixture of illustrations and photographs to accompany the text over 48 pages. To fit these stories into such a short space, Donkin compresses both information and, unfortunately, time. On the K2 expedition, Art Gilkey incorrectly falls to his death in an avalanche during Pete Schoening's miracle belay. On Everest, George Mallory mistakenly falls into a crevasse on his way up the mountain, and Eric Shipton finds "yeti" footprints supposedly while reconnoitering the Khumbu Icefall. The book contains some winning facts, such as "Antarctica is also called the South Pole," and Andrew Irvine "had been on earlier Everest expeditions." Also, there's a picture of some other, rather un-pyramidal Karakorum tower (I'm guessing.) labeled as K2, in the "eastern Himalayas."

The book covers three expeditions in some detail, the 1924 and 1953 British attempts and Eric Simonson's 1999 expedition that found Mallory's body, with mentions of a couple others, including Shipton's reconnaissance and the 1986 MENFREE washout. As long as you're not interested in reading correct information on the climbs, the stories are somewhat entertaining and the words and syntax seem age appropriate. There's lots of additional half-true information and switched around timing that are not worth detailing, as well as a bit of a faux pas when Donkin says that Tenzing worked as a Sherpa, and then he became a climber. The 1999 expedition comes the closest to giving correct information for the Everest climbs, and Donkin at least does a good job of telling the story. I can't say I recommend this book for your kid's next research project, though.

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

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