Ruth Hanson retells the story of one of the world's most intrepid and unusual solo adventurers in Maurice Wilson: A Yorkshireman on Everest. Wilson, without flying or climbing experience, decides in 1932 to fly Everest, crash on its slopes, and climb to the summit alone so that all the world will know the healing power of extreme fasting and prayer. He takes flying lessons, but assumes all he'll need is fitness to get to the top of Everest (perhaps if he'd waited 70 years). Hanson's book traces his unlikely and ultimately tragic journey, from a disillusioned youth returning from the Great War to the slopes of Everest. She adds to his story details regarding his physical and cultural surroundings during his contingency-plan walk from Darjeeling to Rongbuk, based on her own travels and studies. Also, she pieces together what she can of the bureaucratic shenanigans of the officials trying to put his solo flight to an end.
The book is a nice addition to Dennis Roberts' I'll Climb Mount Everest Alone. His strong suit is the details of Wilson's flight halfway around the world, and while he makes the journey across Tibet sound difficult, he doesn't discuss the surroundings much. Hanson brings the people and landscape to life during the second phase of Wilson's journey, especially during his stay at Rongbuk, reminding us that the monastery was the center for cultural life in the area, and not merely a stopover on Wilson's journey. She also follows up on the fate of Wilson's three Sherpa companions, including Darjeeling officials' decision not to press charges against them and two of their returning to Everest in 1935. There is one more book out there about Wilson, Peter Meier-Huesimg's Wo die Schneeloewen Tanzen: Maurice Wilsons vegessene Everest-Besteigung, that I hope to read soon (that is, as soon as it works its way over to me via surface mail from Germany!).