Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fear No Boundary, by Sue Fear & Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall and Sue Fear, the second Australian woman to climb Everest, present her life and climbs in Fear No Boundary: One Woman's Amazing Journey. Her story inspires, as she develops from a naive world traveler with a background in the travel industry, to a trekking and mountain guide, to a gifted high-altitude mountaineer. She works her way up, climbing higher and higher mountains, scaling Makalu II, Cho Oyu, and Shishipangma, leading expeditions or climbing with only a partner. She finds inspiration from her father to scale Everest, signing up with Russell Brice's Himex operation to focus on climbing, rather than running the show. Her climb, in May 2003 via the North Ridge, happens to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Everest's first successful ascent, and the publicity machine takes over her life upon her return home. She follows her Everest experience with a climb of Gasherbrum II in 2004. If you happen to read the 2005 edition of this book, you'll get a happy ending, with Fear's positive attitude and adventurous spirit filling up the final paragraphs. If you, however, get a hold on a 2006 edition, brace yourself for the tale of her untimely demise on Manaslu. (See Lincoln Hall's Dead Lucky for his personal perspective.)

The book is a mixture of personal memoir and traditional biography, with Fear and Hall writing alternating chapters. Her chapters focus quite a bit on her interior motivations and her relationships with the people around her. Hall's are a bit more mechanical, but provide a nice balance of exterior analysis. They make a nice counterpoint, as they fill-out the overall narrative of her life and climbs in a way that would be impossible with a single author. I was quite pleased with the overall structure of the book and with the quality of the writing.

Fear's Everest expedition is actually one that I had not read about previously. (It's a rare pleasure these days.) Her Himex companions are merely half of Brice's responsibilities, as an American reality-television crew, including head guide Chris Warner and cameramen Mark Whetu and Jake Norton, prove a major distraction. She runs into trouble with her own guide, but finds a path towards independence and eventual success. The narrative is one of the saner chronicles of a commercial climb and an interesting precursor to Lincoln Hall's 2006 experience, also with Himex. This is a great book, if you can find a copy!

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