Saturday, July 13, 2013

Maurice Wilson: A Yorkshireman on Everest, by Ruth Hanson

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!).

1 comment:

  1. I get the feeling there's more to Wilson's fasting / prayer healing than anyone has been able to dig up so far. A single visit to a "healer" doesn't quite convince me, and Roberts' idea about seeing yogis on his boat to England doesn't win me over either. I think he probably was influenced into the idea during his stay in New Zealand. I first came across fasting as healing in New Zealand from Edmund Hillary's biography, in which Percival Hillary, Edmund's father, makes his children fast every time they get sick. Then I happened to read about Linda Hazzard, who started a movement in New Zealand to heal all ills through extreme fasting, and who was active during Wilson's stay there. I don't have any hard evidence to substantiate this hunch, but it seems more plausible to me that even if he didn't pick up the habit of fasting to cure illness in New Zealand, he at least would have heard the news about fasting and healing while he was there, and been more receptive to it than otherwise later. Anyone have anything on this?