Nick's Reviews > The Climb

The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev
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Aug 19, 08

bookshelves: mountaineering
Recommended for: Armchair mountaineers
Read in August, 2008

This is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, with an interest in the '96 Everest disaster and of Everest history in general, this is compulsory reading. However, on the other hand it isn't the best written of books and struggles sometimes under the weight of its own intentions.

The Climb sets out to address the criticism leveled at Russian/Kazakh high-altitude climber Anatoli Boukreev by the American author Jon Krakauer in his bestselling book Into Thin Air. It contains a fascinating account of the other major expedition, Mountain Madness, which along with Krakauer's team, was caught up in the tragedy of May 1996.

Given that it was written by Boukreev (with the assistance of writer G Weston DeWalt) who was hired as a professional guide it goes further into the technical details of the climb, including discussions of rope fixing and oxygen caches. Unfortunately the style is awkward, mixing quotes from various sources, tied together by a narrative. Whilst this does a good job of preserving the context of the quotes it feels somewhat stilted and ungainly, lurching from one perspective to another, from one part of the climb to another. Anyone who has read Into Thin Air will know that in contrast, this book is well constructed and engagingly written.

I think in The Climb the desire to present quotes and facts so as to be unambiguous has meant that the book has lost a soul. Still, its different perspective on the events is insightful and gives you perhaps a better idea of what conspired. Certainly it shows Boukreev as the hero he undoubtedly was, saving three people from the cold embrace of death and returning to the mountains only days after surviving the events on Everest.

Despite flaws in its writing I would still recommend this book to anyone interested in the challenge of the high mountains.
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