Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Morning Light, by Margaret Griffiths

Margaret Griffiths writes of her husband's sailing from Britain to British Columbia, his son's climbing and dying on Everest, and her husband's subsequent trip to Everest in Morning Light: Triumph at Sea and Tragedy on Everest. George Griffiths decides to, upon his retirement, sail a small vessel across the Atlantic, to Hawaii by way of Panama, and home to British Columbia. (He was, among other things, an officer in the Royal Navy.) He chooses a wood-hulled boat in need of plenty of work, cleans it up, and weathers many storms in an unusually wet and windy solo Atlantic crossing. He meets his two sons, Mark and Blair, in the Caribbean, and sails for home with Mark, along for help and companionship. Meanwhile, Blair is invited to film the 1982 Canadian Everest expedition, based on his successful mountain filming in Peru.

On Everest, things go south quickly for the Canadians, with an avalanche killing three Sherpa. During the funeral, a party restoring the broken route in the Khumbu Icefall falls prey to an even larger avalanche, this time killing Blair Griffiths. Margaret Griffiths, in her writing, gives us Blair's perspective of the climb, based on his diary and his letters home, as well as a general telling of the expedition based on eyewitness accounts and other sources. I appreciate her empathetic writing throughout, and her wonderful way of interpreting and relaying the feeling and experience of things that she knew largely second-hand. She also relates George's climb to the base of Mount Everest to memorialize and connect with the death of his son, trekking in his old age from Jiri to above Lobuche. I'm glad I picked this book after this year's tragedy on Everest, as it makes death, even on a place as cold and far off as the Khumbu Icefall, seem human and natural, without diminishing the awful loss that it inflicts on those left behind. [Only] four people died in the tragedy of 1982, and yet it was an awful experience to live through; I can't imagine the impact on the families and survivors of this year's loss.

No comments:

Post a Comment