As someone who has never, will never, and wants never, to climb even a hill without a path and ice cream shop every mile, I remain somewhat perplexed by those who feel they must endure freezing cold, ridiculous food, tea all the time (if you’re British), and the constant risk of death. But these psychotics are great fun to read about. I’ve read several mountaineering accounts, and not just for the feats of climbing, but the internal and external personality conflicts, as well.
One wonders in books like this just how much of the internal thinking reported can be relied upon. One Amazon reviewer who claims to be a moderately successful climber himself (I certainly can be no judge) echoes my concern. “...shows to be invented material on thoughts and motivations of the people about whom he writes. I am suspicious of this practice and it may well be that it says more about our Clint than it does about our Chris.” *
In the aftermath of Tony’s death, one of women at the base camp notes she had begun to “fear people who didn’t know any easier way to be happy.” That certainly sums up one attitude toward these overgrown children. Willis doesn’t call them “boys” lightly.
Climbing techniques were changing and Chris Bonington, a constant in Willis’ book and known as a more than competent climber and organizer, soon realized that the techniques of mountaineering had changed. The practice of large groups with multiple base camps, lots of supplies, many sherpas, fixed ropes to ease passage between base camps, was losing favor to smaller, lighter attacks on summits, more in the tradition of Alpine climbers.
The larger question is whether the author gets it “right” when he discusses motivations and the ethos of climbing. I suspect he does, but have no way of knowing. Nevertheless, this book is intriguing and riveting, a real page-turner.
Audiobook ably read by James Adams