Rating: 4 out of 5
The story of the ascent of Everest gripped my interest in several ways – firstly, the narrative here begins more than two year before the event and comes in slowly, describing what had to be done before the ’53 expedition could happen; secondly, and more importantly, the book highlighted the importance of teamwork in challenging environments. I was also unaware of the ascent’s Coronation Day significance, but when it was revealed I was speechless. That moment, whether in London or anywhere in the Commonwealth, must have been spectacular…
I was quite surprised by the amount of politicking which had to be referred to both between the various countries trying to ascend to the top first as well as within the expedition team and prior to even establishing it. Also, anywhere where one of the chapters can be titled “A Very British Coup” can only pique my interest.
What I have described thus far is politics and teamwork — however, it is obvious that there is a far bigger player in this book, and that is the mountain or mountaineering in general. Everest looms above the works throughout the story and though the modern reader knows that the mountain was eventually climbed and by whom, it does not mean that the fate of the others are known. Thus, the narrative still provides numerous points of interest, especially in describing how and when some particularly trying episodes were passed.
I picked the book up not because I like mountaineering but because I like a good story. I think the author has provided the reader with one, but he also made it accessible to everyman and included enough to make both a mountaineer as well as a journalist find something in this for themselves.