Tuesday, July 17, 2012

To the Top, by Stephen Venables

Stephen Venables writes a history of climbing Mount Everest for young readers in To the Top: The Story of Everest. He weaves his own climb up the Kangshung Face with a small international expedition (see his Everest: Alone at the Summit) into the overall story, narrating his experiences in sections, while comparing his climb with other historical ascents in others. Venables focuses on the early history climbing Everest, covering the 1921, 1922, 1924, 1951, and 1953 expeditions in some detail, while mentioning occasional details from the 1930s climbs and the 1952 Swiss attempts. A later chapter covers the 1963 American traverse, the 1975 Southwest Face expedition, as well as the climbs of Reinhold Messner, while giving nods to Junko Tabei, Macartney-Snape's Australian crew, Troillet and Loretan's speedy climb, the Poles' climb in winter, and the 1983 American ascent of the Kangshung Face. The photographs in the book are well-chosen and quite clear, meant to highlight the upcoming digitization of the Everest Archive of the Royal Geographical Society Picture Library (found here).

Venables writing is high quality. He writes in a fairly plain style, but generally avoids oversimplifying facts. (His stating that Morshead and Wheeler conducted the survey in 1921 is one potential oversimplification, forgetting fellow surveyors Singh, Thapa, and Khan, photographer Khan, and sixteen assistants.) He only makes a few minor mistakes in his history, such his stating that the 1922 expedition erected a cairn to memorialize the seven lost Sherpas or that Hillary's Khumjung school was the first Sherpa school. Compared to the young readers' authors who show pictures of the wrong mountain or write that Hillary and Tenzing stopped for tea on the South Summit on their way up, these errors are hardly worth mentioning. For a general history of Everest, this is so far my favorite book for young readers. I hope you like it!

For a similar book written for adults, see Venables' Summit of Achievement. This post is a revision and expansion of an earlier entry, which can be found here

No comments:

Post a Comment