Monday, May 21, 2012

Reaching Beyond the Clouds, by Cindy L. Abbott

After watching Everest: Beyond the Limit in 2007, Cindy L. Abbott knows that she needs to climb Mount Everest but finds out soon after that she has Wegener's granulomatosis, in Reaching Beyond the Clouds: From Undiagnosed to Climbing Mt. Everest. Though her disease is a potentially deadly immune problem, Abbott decides that her daunting goal of climbing the world's highest mountain is the life-affirming beacon she needs to counter the physical terrors of her condition. Though legally blinded in one eye by the disease and while fighting through treatment, she trains hard for a 2010 climb and climbs several mountains, including Aconcagua (nearly) and Pik Lenin while taking harsh immuno-suppresant drugs. Though she receives very little financial support from anyone besides her peers, she climbs Everest to give awareness to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) and the Vasculitis Foundation, in a way that seemed more genuine to me than Sean Swarner's climbing for cancer awareness in Keep Climbing. (Perhaps her prose is just more mature, however.)

She climbs Everest in the pre-monsoon season under Scott Woolums and Bill Allen for Mountain Trip along with four other clients. They have a pretty good run of it, with good enough weather to make their acclimatization and summit climbs in relative comfort. A short and late jet stream window makes for a large crowd on summit day, and it sounds as if her biggest danger on her climb was the presence of so many other summiteers. I was amazed by her description of the higher reaches of the mountain---such a contrast to Hillary and Tenzing's wading through snow up the Southeast Ridge, with plenty of rock climbing and frustrating vertical steps before reaching the South Summit. Mountain Trip set up a well-equipped operation, with enough equipment in place for contingencies and an escort for every client during their climbs. Abbott is contagiously positive in her writing, creating the first client-narrative book that I've really enjoyed in a couple years. Hope you like it too!

PS - Look at the cover, and then look at page 157 for a bit of amusement.

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