Friday, August 16, 2013

Reach for the Sky, by Falvey & Collins

Pat Falvey, with Dan Collins, tells of his early life and his quest for the seven summits in Reach for the Sky. A self-made millionaire, who then loses it all, Falvey turns to mountains for renewal and discovers a passion for high places. After climbing Ireland's highest mountain, he makes a personal goal of climbing Everest, back before everyone and their grandma began trudging to the peak. He spends more and more time in the mountains, including working as a rescue climber on his home turf and winters in Scotland and the Alps. He climbs on Ama Dablam with friends before making his first attempt at Everest post-monsoon in 1993, in the shadow of Dawson Stelfox and Frank Nugent's successful climb in May (see Siggins' Everest Calling). His Everest quest becomes a Seven Summits quest, and he begins bagging other continental high points before returning to Everest in 1995 for his summit climb. He finishes with a trip to Antarctica and Australia, in addition to climbing Mount Cook and attempting to reach Carstenz Pyramid, just in case. The book is a mixture of inspiration, humor, and storytelling, with his climbs going considerably better than the average seven-summiteer, even if he makes two trips to Everest. As his father told him, however, success is in the trying; reaching the goal is a bonus.

His Everest experience highlights an interesting transition time in Everest expeditions. His 1993 trip, under Jon Tinker, was a commercial expedition, but not a guided one. Though OTT provided logistical support and supplies, each member was expected to pull his weight. Also the members included a research team, including one who died on the mountain. The expedition was deemed a success because two climbers (Maciej Berbeka and Tinker) and two Sherpa, Lhakpa Nuru and Babu Chhiri, made the summit. His return in 1995, again with OTT, was set up more to give all or most of the climbers the chance to summit. Most of the climbers (nine) on the expedition made the summit, as well as six Sherpa. The style of expedition was more service-oriented, and provided overall more amenities, though the close babysitting and route-stringing high on the mountain that is common today was not in force. (See the example of Bob Hempstead, Falvey's teammate, in Greg Child's Postcards from the Ledge.)

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