Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Conquest of Everest, by Lowe & Lewis-Jones

George Lowe, along with Huw Lewis-Jones, presents a photobook commemorating the 60th anniversary of Everest's first successful climb in The Conquest of Everest: Original Photographs from the Legendary First Ascent. Lowe, the last surviving climber on the team (a couple Sherpa participants still survive), passed just before the anniversary of the ascent, but not before putting together a first-rate memoir and photo exhibition of the climb. He speaks with nostalgia for Himalayan times past, when climbs were still adventures into the collective unknown, and the Everest-industrial-complex hadn't yet taken hold. His narrative of his Himalayan climbs mainly retells stories found elsewhere (see his From Everest to the South Pole, for instance) though the telling here is more mature and focuses more on his photographic duties. His reflections on Everest, however, are quite special, something that could have only come from a witness of great history and lifelong involvement in the Himalaya. Additionally, several other famous climbers (Bonington, Messner, Cool, and others) associated with Everest provide their own take on Lowe's contributon and the history of Everest.

The photographs are a terrific collection. Many of the images are previously unpublished, and they give a broader representation Everest's first climb than any photobook so far. Though Alfred Gregory's images are lovely (see Alfred Gregory's Everest or Alfred Gregory: Images from Everest to Africa), Lowe tended to be at the sharp end more often. Here we see pictures of the initial work in the  icefall, Lowe's epic on the Lhotse Face, and a number of pictures from the South Col and Southeast Ridge. Not all of the images in the collection are by Lowe, but his contributions add quite a bit of action to the photographic record. I also appreciated seeing a number of pictures from the 1951 Murkut Parbat climb and the 1952 Cho Oyu attempt, especially of Lowe's and Hillary's climb of the Nup La. Overall, this is a grand collection---a must have for afficionados of Everest history!

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