Sunday, November 18, 2012

Everest: Goddess of the Wind, by Ronald Faux

Ronald Faux writes a compressed history of climbing the world's highest mountain in Everest: Goddess of the Wind. Like Ahluwalia, in Faces of Everest, Faux caps off a an era of climbing on Everest with a history published in 1978, though he gets in a mention of Messner and Habeler's historic ascent. It's hard not to compare these two books, as they largely serve the same purpose and cover the same material. Faux's book is considerably more British-centric, whereas Ahluwalia treats all expeditions roughly equally. They both include their own contribution to the history of Everest (Faux participated in the 1976 Joint Services Expedition; see his and Fleming's Soldiers on Everest.), and discuss each visit to the mountain by climbers. Faux also writes a short description of Nepal, its people, flora, and fauna, including a chapter on the yeti. The book includes photographic illustrations throughout, as well as some maps and a great page of newspaper clippings about the 1953 ascent.

Because the book is so short (roughly 100 pages), Faux had to make some difficult decisions about how to tell the story, especially regarding the early history. The 1921 reconnaissance gets only a few paragraphs, and the 1922 climbs comes off more as an encyclopedia entry than a dramatic story. Maurice Wilson, the 1935 reconnaissance, and the 1938 climb share a single paragraph. I realize he had to cut somewhere, but I think I would have ditched the 30 pages on the yeti and Nepal for a more focused narrative on the subject advertised by the cover and the introduction to the book. The Nepal section is nice, regardless, though it feels a bit like a separate book. Many of the subsequent climbs from 1950 through to the publication date have detail in proportion to the number of British climbers on the roster, with the 1953 and 1975 and 1976 climbs getting the most coverage.

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