Monday, November 5, 2012

Live the Dream, by Art Valdez

Art Valdez tells of the first Filipino ascent of Mount Everest in Live the Dream: The Saga of the Philippine Mount Everest Expedition Team. He tried in vain to organize a team in 1985, but had better luck starting in 2003. As the Philippines had few experienced mountaineers, a group of thirty chosen climbers set out to train and aim for inclusion in a small final team. Their trips include alpine climbing courses in India and New Zealand, and climbs on McKinley, Muztagh Ata, and Cho Oyu before the trip to Everest. (Due to their Muztagh Ata climb, the first operation in the Philippines for frostbite was performed.) Fundraising is continually a problem, even up to the approach march to Everest (one climber even harvests potatoes in exchange for better meals), but they manage somehow. Though the team was originally supposed to be both men and women, the women opt for a climb a year later (in which three ladies traverse the mountain North-South).

Their team helps the first three (undisputed) Filipino climbers reach the summit, from the south in May of 2006. The details of their climb, indeed all their climbs, are sparse, as the book is primarily a photo exhibition. Their base camp doctor is popular with other teams, and the summit climbers reach the top on three successive days. The McKinley and Cho Oyu climbs have photos, but are not a part of the narrative. The Muztagh Ata climb is a part of the narrative, but has no photos. The photographs are high quality and journalistic in style, with a bit of salesmanship thrown in. The book overall feels like a modern Another Ascent of the World's Highest Peak - Qomolangma, the official photobook release after the 1975 Chinese ascent, but without the Chairman Mao theme.

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