Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Kid Who Climbed Everest, by Bear Grylls

 Ten years before actual children started climbing Everest, Bear Grylls wrote The Kid Who Climbed Everest: The Incredible Story of a 23-Year-Old's Summit of Mt. Everest (AKA Facing Up). The book covers a short part of his life, from his parachuting accident that caused him a serious back injury to his climb of Everest. He and three friends, including Neil Laughton (survivor of the 1996 disaster), climb under Henry Todd's Himalayan Guides during the 1998 spring season via Nepal. Grylls, like many Everest authors, tries to cover up a bit that he's climbing on a commercial team, saying things like his smaller team joined forces with Todd's larger team, etc. Grylls and his friend Mick Croswaithe arrive a Base Camp a couple weeks early to get acclimated; they also have a close call in the Khumbu Icefall before climbing has officially begun. The larger team follows the standard acclimatization scheme, with Grylls doing well up until illness knocks him out of the first summit attempt. 1998, for the uninitiated, was the year of the forgotten rope, in which a large crowd of climbers turned back at the South Summit (including Gryll's teammates) because no one brought a rope. Grylls and two teammates make a second attempt, with Gryll's climbing into history as the youngest Briton to climb Everest, for a couple years. (Current record is held by George Atkinson, aged 16.)

Grylls has come a long way since climbing Everest, and it was fascinating to read his first book again after reading his more recent work, Mud, Sweat, and Tears. The Kid says very little about his military background, not even mentioning his SAS(R) selection. It does, however, discuss his love of tough runs through Brecon Beacons and his fluency in Spanish and shows him to be a first class pusher and survivor. Soon, perhaps, he'll write a book with a little more detail on his television career.

For people who have a habit of reading Everest books, this book is a fairly interesting one to get to after reading a couple others. Recently, Gryll's teammate Graham Ratcliffe's book, A Day to Die For, tries to sort out a mystery about the 1996 disaster regarding whether the guides were receiving weather reports. Grylls mentions that Todd is receiving weather reports from Bracknell at $500 a piece. I'm surprised Ratcliffe never noticed, as he was doing the same in 1996. Also, Grylls mentions the Singapore team often---even including their leader, David Lim (author of Mountain to Climb), in his acknowledgements. In an explanation of why he got to the top in his expedition and earlier military expeditions had failed, he mentions their large sizes bred too much competition rather than mutual support. Mark Anderson's On the Big Hill seems to contradict this sentiment regarding the 1988 attempt on the West Ridge. Also Brummie Stoke's 1984 North Face attempt was toasted by terrible luck rather than infighting. I think if many of the climbers on these expeditions had had the level of commercial service that Gryll received, on the route he climbed, they would have also had a great chance at making the summit.

This review is a revision and expansion of an earlier post, found here.


  1. Doing a report for this book but didn't read it. Thanks for the help!

    1. Remember that teachers have just as easy access to this resource as their students...and you just signed your name.