Saturday, April 21, 2012

To the Summit, by Chisholm & Ray

Margo Chisholm and Ray Bruce's To the Summit: A Woman's Journey into the Mountains to Find Her Soul tells of Chisholm's attempt to be the first woman to climb the Seven Summits after her recovery from several addictions. Her addiction recovery as well as her "Inner Family" (not sure what to call them---personalities? voices?) make for an interesting change in your average seven summits story. At one point she is taking as many as 70 laxatives in a day, and many people show up in her thoughts throughout her life including dead and living friends, spirits, God, herself as a kid, and one very angry lady that hangs around too much. Like her friend Peter, I worry that she has gotten over her addictions to drugs, alcohol, etc. only to become dependent upon adventure travel and her inner voices. It concerns me that she works to become a counselor. Chisholm narrative explores the interior as much as it does mountains, and you'll discover her inner depths as she climbs to the heights of each continent, reaching five of the summits in just under a year.

Her last climb is, of course, Mount Everest. She attempts to climb to the summit via the South Col during the pre-monsoon seasons of 1992 and 1993, the first time under Todd Burleson and the second under Rob Hall and Gary Ball. The first climb is a mixed commercial-sponsored expedition, in which some members place a laser reflector on the summit for National Geographic while others, like Chisholm, have come to seek their own summit. This was a quite early commercial climb, and the guides didn't frame the acclimatization schedule around the clients. The group climbs to the Western Cwm and stays after their first trip up for their subsequent forays up the mountain. Most of the clients end up with pulmonary disease, including Chisholm. (Additional information on this climb is in Kenneth Kamler's Doctor on Everest.) Her second climb is a bit happier, with three other ladies for company, but she still struggles with the climb. She returns for a trip to Base Camp in 1995 for a final goodbye.

This is a revision and compilation of several earlier posts, which begin here.

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