Monday, April 8, 2013

Beyond Everest, by Pat Morrow

Pat Morrow climbs, skis, and takes photographs around the world in Beyond Everest: Quest for the Seven Summits. After climbing McKinley and Aconcagua (the second as training for Everest), Morrow began thinking about the continental high points. Upon his descent from the summit of Everest in 1982, he decided climbing the remaining peaks would be a grand adventure and a great way to expand his photography career. He had no idea that he would be facing competition for completing his quest (see Bass' and Ridgeway's Seven Summits), nor that he would have to overcome so many logistical and financial hurdles along the way. The book is as much a coming-of-age story as a climbing narrative, with Morrow growing (or regressing, depending on your perspective) from a migratory bohemian climber who happens to take good photographs to part-owner of an adventure travel company and worldwide traveler. In this book, the Seven Summits are fresh adventures, clear of the "fixers" who would pave the way for crowds of people to follow in his and Bass' footsteps. To reach Vinson, Morrow ends up founding the airline and setting up the company that would later shuttle people to and from the mountain, since there is no alternative. To get to Carstenz Pyramid, he works through diplomats and mining executives, setting up a nationally-sponsored climbing exchange with Indonesia, becoming the first foreigner to reach the summit in nine years. This is a book from a different (perhaps simpler) time, when his reaching the East Peak of Elbrus (slightly lower than the main summit) is perfectly OK, as whiteout conditions prevented his climbing further---a huge contrast to the controversy waiting for today's climbers who climb nearly to the top of mountains (see Kammerlander and Lucker's Seven Second Summits).

Morrow's Everest material is breath of fresh air, as far as material about the 1982 Canadian expedition goes. Several writers, including Morrow's teammates seem to think the expedition is either something to be attacked (Burgess and Palmer's Everest Canada) or defended (Amatt's Straight to the Top and Beyond). Morrow plays a little defense for the overall expedition, but he doesn't take sides in the war of words among climbers. He writes with understanding of many of his fellow climbers' controversial decisions, such as Lloyd Gallagher's decision to turn back from Camp IV late in the day, Marsh's much-debated leadership, Rusty Baillie's (and others) leaving the expedition, and Skreslet's solo climb through the Khumbu Icefall. His own climb goes well, largely because he chose to use Skreslet's oxygen set, which had worked to get Skreslet to the summit. Morrow is critical of the diluter-demand oxygen sets purchased from the American medical team (see West's Everest: The Testing Place), as he claims they were responsible for Burgess' failed summit climb and Gallagher's trouble reaching the South Col.

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