My claim in the profile to the right about climbing mountains isn’t an idle one (honest), and so I found this book, detailing some of the not-so-ethical behaviour on Mount Everest, was very interesting. And, at times, unsettling.
Michael Kodas tells the story of his own ill-fated attempt to summit Everest from the Tibetan side, and contrasts it with the death of Nils Antezana, a 69-year-old doctor who died whilst descending on the Nepalese side of the mountain. Whilst Kodas’s attempt floundered due to conflicts within the assembled team, Antezana died alone on the mountain after summiting but being left to descend, alone, by his guide.
These two stories are well told and quite unnerving, but there are other snippets as well – one climber was forced to rappel down one of the routes, and it was only by chance that he looked over his shoulder and realised that the (fixed) rope he was descending had, for no apparent reason, been cut off; had he not turned to look, he would have fallen to his death. Other climbers find their tents or equipment have been stolen as they ascend to higher camps on Everest.
There’s some good analysis of why 2006 saw so many deaths on Everest, and the chilling fact that almost anyone can claim to be a ‘guide’ and charge tens of thousands of pounds to lead you up Everest, even if they’ve had limited – or next to no – experience of guiding.
The book sometimes strays from the central narratives a bit, though it only tends to do this when recounting something else of interest or which adds to the background, so I felt this could be forgiven. The writing style is good and straightforward, and thankfully it generally avoids giving lines of dialogue when no witnesses were to hand, or speculating wildly about events. There’s a lot of referencing and quoting from eyewitnesses, and a bibliography and index to back all this up.
So, if you’re interested in Everest, or climbing generally, this is a solid account of an aspect of the mountain which doesn’t tend to get much coverage. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the hardback (thanks, Mrs Wife!), but the paperback’s out in November, so you could save your recession-hit pennies until then. Either way, I recommend it.