Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mud, Sweat, and Tears, by Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls writes about his youth, facing selection for the SAS(R), climbing Everest, meeting his wife, and other important life experiences in Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography. It's a great introduction to the beginning of Gryll's life, with plenty of detail about his early pivotal life events. His earlier book, Facing Up, covers a couple years well (from his skydiving accident to the top of Everest); Mud, Sweat, and Tears broadens the narrative, showing how his family history and his young life likely effected his development into a determined, principled, and adventurous man. He discusses his life at Rugby boarding school and at Eton before getting into the details of his intense struggle to enter the SAS (R). His Selection process takes up a large part of the book, especially the mountain trials, detailing his interior and physical struggles without getting too specific about geography. His actual work for the SAS gets little space due to the nature of the work, but we learn a bit more about his skydiving accident than the earlier book, as well as some more specifics about his recovery.

His Everest story isn't quite as inspirational as in Facing Up, but it does seem more personal. He convinces Neil Laughton to let him climb as a part of his small team under the overall organization of Henry Todd in 1998 during the pre-monsoon season. He and a friend arrive a week earlier for extra acclimatization and climb together until Grylls gets sick. In this version, Grylls includes the rest of the Henry Todd climbers when discussing who climbs when, including Graham Ratcliffe (see his A Day to Die For). You may remember from Ratcliffe's book or others (such as David Lim's Mountain to Climb) that on the first big summit attempt, the climbers, including several from Gryll's team, ran out of fixed rope at the South Summit and turned back. Grylls, too sick to climb then, gets a later chance for an attempt after betting against an incoming storm and getting away with it.

I was a bit surprised when I saw how little of the book was left after the Everest climb. Like he says on page 372 (of 400), "this was really just the beginning." His gives his early relationship with his wife some space, as well as his children, his home, and his work with the Scouts. His subsequent adventures and TV work (Man vs Wild) only get a summary. Personally, I was hoping to read about all this stuff and finished the book a bit disappointed. Perhaps Grylls, like the most famous British Everest personality, Chris Bonington, will be releasing subsequent volumes for his autobiography! It's a fun and fast-paced read; just don't let the inside cover teaser trick you into thinking that there's more to the book that his early life.

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