Sunday, May 25, 2014

Everest: Eighty Years of Triumph and Tragedy, edited by Peter Gillman

Peter Gillman covers in detail the history of Everest with a splendid anthology in Everest: Eighty Years of Triumph and Tragedy. I wish that I had read this earlier in my Everest quest, as it informs so much of the history that is otherwise vague or missing in the Everest literature. In addition to the usual expeditions (early climbs, 1953, 1963, 1975, Messner, 1996, finding Mallory, etc.), which by the way are covered quite well and often from less common sources, Gillman finds or commissions translations of accounts of the 1979 Yugoslavian West Ridge Direct climb, the 1980 Polish winter ascent, the 1982 Soviet Southwest Pillar climb, and the 1995 Zakharov Couloir masterpiece. He covers a lot of the modern history in a way that shows what is important, rather than what is written about, such as covering the 1986 Canadian West Ridge ascent by Sharon Wood and Dwayne Congdon rather than the 1982 Canadian South Col mess that was more tragic than triumphant. Similarly, he provides Carlos Buhler's 1983 Kangshung Face account, rather than one of the many American attempts or climbs via the Great Couloir. I feel there is still a bit of British-centricism here, with two accounts of the 1975 Southwest Face climb, two of the 1953 first ascent, and some Brummie Stokes and Rebecca Stephens thrown in, to boot. Overall, however, Gillman gives a fair account of Everest's climbs like no other.

I appreciate the variety of sources in this book. Many of entries are adapted from journal articles, which the majority of readers of this book (such as myself) would have missed, even if they had an interest in Everest. Perhaps a third of them come from books, many of them the standard literature of the world's highest mountain. Besides the translations mentioned earlier, the original entries are what made the book for me, whether Buhler's diaries, Zakharov's essay, or Ang Rita's interview. In addition to the wealth of sources, Gillman has secured permission to include photographs to show the drama and range of climbing on Everest. The back also includes statistics, including all recorded Everest ascents up to the publication of the book (2000), all deaths on Everest, and number of other interesting data. If you love reading about Everest, read this book; if you're not hooked on Everest yet, read this book, and you will be!

1 comment:

  1. This book is a second edition to Gillman's "Everest: 70 Years of Human Endeavor." I'll compare the two a bit after getting a copy of the earlier edition.