Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Men against Everest, by Howard Marshall

Howard Marshall writes a condensed history of climbing Mount Everest (circa 1954) in Men against Everest. Though his target audience is adults, he still distills 31 years (12 expeditions) of climbing Everest into 62 pages. He keeps the stories intact, extracting his information from the official accounts of the climbs, some Alpine Club Journal entries, and a couple climber biographies, sticking to the angles and facts that the Everest Committee wants you to know. For such a short book, Marshall does a lot of lengthy quoting from his source materials. Most of what he relates is accurate, with occasional slips, such as Marshall's stating that Mallory designed the oxygen system of 1924, authorities turned Maurice Wilson back at Cairo, or Mingma Dove [sic] was killed instantly in 1952 by falling debris. I was a bit annoyed that Marshall spent more time discussing yetis in his chapter on the 1951 reconnaissance than the actual reconnaissance.

Considering the length of the book, I think Marshall does a great job of relating the story of Everest. There's no room for deep analysis, but he picks the pertinent information and writes a understandable narrative. Of course, many of the personal details are lost, but for someone looking for the basic information on the climbs, the book makes a healthy summary. There are black and white photographic illustrations to go along with the book, courtesy of the original accounts' publishers, which are all fairly standard. I'd say this is a handy reference for the uninitiated, but certainly not something for the connoisseur to savor.

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