Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Moving Mountains, by James Wilde

James Wilde discovers a passion for philanthropy while exploring the world's high points in Moving Mountains: How the dream to climb the Seven Summits transformed into the charity Global H2O. After climbing Kilimanjaro and growing attached to high places, Wilde quests for the other six continental high points while working some very impressive jobs around the world. His book documents his ten important climbs for his list and his charity, with two tries on Aconcagua and two on Everest, as well as some self-discovery on Cho Oyu. With the exception of his second Aconcagua climb (during which he led a team) and diminutive Kosciuszko, he sticks to guided climbs, learning quite a bit on Elbrus before getting some more serious training for his other ascents. His experience is more international than most English-language Seven Summits literature, because he speaks Russian and is comfortable with Russian outfitters for several of his climbs. His charity, Global H2O, develops from a sideline to an Everest climb to his primary fundraising focus before leaving to climb the world's highest mountain. His first projects, bringing safe drinking water to those who desperately need it through the digging of wells, inspire him to make the charity his life's passion. 

I enjoyed getting an inside view of Abramov's 7 Summits Club expeditions on Everest. According to Wilde, the organization has changed quite a bit between his two climbs, in 2005 and 2010. Abramov instituted new safety rules, increased the physical comforts he offers, and taken more of a leadership role (rather than an organizer or fixer) on the North side of Everest with the departure of Russell Brice to Nepal. Wilde turns back in 2005 after having doubts (and some understandable depression) and never quite fitting in with the Russians with whom ends up climbing high on the mountain. He still enjoys the company of many of his teammates, and ends up climbing with or near them on other mountains. He returns to the North side of Everest in 2010 with a determination to get the job done, especially after the emotional high of completing his first drilling project in Uganda.

The book is enjoyable and Wilde's philanthropy is laudable. He mentions a side trip to Khumjung while in the Khumbu region, visiting the first school built by Edmund Hillary. Here's hoping Wilde's success in Africa is every bit as effective Hillary's efforts in Nepal!

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