Chris Bonington and his Boys finally climb the Last Great Problem on the south side of Everest in Everest: The Hard Way. He learns quite a bit from his first try at the Southwest Face of Everest, returning post-monsoon in 1975 to finish the job. Many of his climbers return from the first try (as chronicled in Everest: Southwest Face), with some newcomers including Doug Scott (who had joined Herrligkoffer's European Southwest Face expedition) and Pete Boardman. He implements most of the proposed changes mentioned at the end of Everest: Southwest Face, including arriving earlier, moving Camp IV, and putting netting above the MacInnes boxes to dispel falling debris. Bonington arrives with a plan, complete with computer analysis, for stocking and assaulting the mountain, and the weather behaves enough for the team to pretty much follow it. They get enough gear high enough for two summit assaults, with Doug Scott and Dougal Haston making it to the top quite late, forcing a snow-hole bivouac near the South Summit (Brummie Stokes and Bronco Lane would attempt something similar with much worse results a year later, in Fleming and Faux's Soldiers and Sherpas.), and a four-man attempt directly after, with Pete Boardman and Pertemba making the top, Mick Burke disappearing, and Martin Boysen quite angry about a faulty oxygen system. The true heroes of the expedition were Nick Estcourt and Tut Braithwaite, who made the push through the Rock Band, making summit attempts possible while knocking out any chance they would have at the summit. The key to their success was the expedition's decision to push the gully to the left on the face, which, post-monsoon has a mix of snow and rock, rather than making a push for the shorter right-hand gully that historically has had only rock to climb.
This book has a little bit of everything for the reader. Once again, there's a rushed start, drama between the climbers, plenty of falling hazards (Watch your head, MacInnes!), broken "indestructible" equipment, appendices galore, grave danger, and a British leader who can't decide between despotism and democracy. I appreciate that Bonington is both analytical and self-critical in his writing, even if some of his climbers don't always appreciate it on the mountain. I love that he is able to round up a team of self-motivated first-rate climbers for a climb that is a bit like the Eiger-direct on steroids. To my knowledge, their route has only been repeated once, by a Czeckoslovakian team of four, climbing alpine-style, in which one climber made it to the summit, and all perished on descent. If you're going to pick one Bonington book to read, go for this one.