Friday, August 17, 2012

Sacred Mountain: Everest, by Christine Taylor-Butler

Christine Taylor-Butler writes a refreshingly culturally-sensitive young readers' book on Sherpa culture and climbing Mount Everest in Sacred Mountain: Everest. She states that Everest is a sacred mountain to people who live both to the north and south of it. She separates out traditional Sherpa life from its somewhat odd reality, discussing Sherpa agriculture, religion, customs, and family life before getting to western influences. She discusses Everest as a sacred summit, even bringing up Miyolangsangma and the Five Sisters, but it seemed strange to me to place its religious significance before the practical. Though she mentions Solu briefly, the cultural information in the book is primary about the Sherpas of Khumbu. Additionally, there is some natural history in the book, including the geologic formation of the Himalaya, the wildlife of Everest's outlying areas, and a plug for conservation. Throughout, there are photographic illustrations that make for a beautifully set book.

Taylor-Butler's climbing material is somewhat off, but it luckily (and rightly!) plays only a part in her book on Mount Everest. The climbing facts are a bit wacky at times, such as calling the Sherpas on the 1953 expedition "guides" or that people generally climb the "South Face" of Everest. Other things, such as her stating the 1921 reconnaissance traveled to Tibet before returning to Darjeeling to pick up the expedition's Sherpas are closer to being wrong. (Howard-Bury did travel to Gyantse, in Tibet, in 1920 while seeking permission, but that was before the expedition was even organized.) On the other hand, it was great of her to cover the recent Sherpa and Sherpani expeditions to the top of Everest! Though she gives the expeditions only a couple pages, it's the most thorough book resource I've found on these climbs so far. A well-researched book from an outsider looking in.

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

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