Sunday, June 3, 2012

White Limbo, by Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall  begins his literary career with a gem in White Limbo: The 1st Australian Climb of Mt. Everest. Though the narrative is a bit bare at times, the story is hard to beat. Tim Macartney-Snape, Greg Mortimer, Andy Henderson, Geof Bartram, and the author climb a new route on Everest in a semi-alpine style without supplemental oxygen and live to tell the tale (along with help from Tenzing and Narayan lower on the mountain and a film crew and journalist watching). They are constantly in danger, and have several close calls with avalanches, climbing post-monsoon up and around the Great Couloir on the North Face in 1984. There's plenty of snow on the mountain, and they take a lot of breathtaking photographs, including a panorama on the summit at sunset. He preaches a bit at times about the environment, but he walks the walk, and they carry out all their trash but their high camp tent (due to Andy Henderson's injuries). The tent would later play a cameo in the Great Couloir climb of the Americans, when their first summit team bivouacs in the open after not being able to find it (see Lou Whittaker's Memoirs of a Mountain Guide).

The book includes both the Everest climb and a warm-up, with most of the team climbing a new route on the South Face of Annapurna II. (Their team includes a young and inexperienced Mike Groom (Sheer Will) on Annapurna.) Both climbs face long approaches through rough terrain, mixed climbing, and a very tall wall. Annapurna ends up having a great deal more rockfall, whereas Everest constantly threatens avalanches. Their Everest climb is followed a week later by the deaths of fellow Australians Fred From and Craig Nottle after a fall on the West Ridge, climbing with Peter Hillary (see his In the Ghost Country). An interesting side note: their liaison officer on Everest is Mr. Qu, the man who lost his toes and several fingers to frostbite after climbing the Second Step on the Northeast Ridge with bare appendages in 1960 to set ropes on the final summit assault. Also, Tim Macartney-Snape would later be the first to climb Everest from sea level to the summit (all 8850 meters) in 1993, in his Everest from Sea to Summit. Lincoln Hall would finally make it to the summit himself in 2006, though he almost didn't make it back, in his Dead Lucky.

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

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