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Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  137 ratings  ·  20 reviews
A powerful account of a famously tragic expedition.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Mountaineers Books (first published October 1st 1987)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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Stephanie Josine
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
I bought this book because I attended a talk by the author at the Lahore Lit Fest, from which I got the impression that it was centred on the story of espionage, nuclear mishap, and the surrounding diplomatic/political machinations. It reads more like a mountain climbing journal and gets bogged down in the detail of the characters and minor interactions - which at times is really interesting, but other times, just doesn't move the plot along. I didn't finish it, but it just wasn't doing it for m ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mountaineering
Really enjoyed the "front line" account of one of the most controversial American expeditions in Himalayan climbing history. Roskelley relates the story in a very straightforward, to-the-point style. Nothing literary or lyrical here, which is why the book will appeal more to serious climbers who understand the dynamics of an expedition than to casual readers. At the same time, the author presents a strong, unapologetic analysis of the psychological challenges that ultimately wrecked the expediti ...more
Nikko Lee
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Why I read this book:

Whenever I visit Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington Vt, I always look for an outdoor book. I wasn't familiar with the Nanda Devi expedition or John Roskelley, but I am always fascinated by tales of survival and tragedy.

My one sentence summary:

Expeditions are as much about team dynamics as technical skill.


Roskelly's narrative is a straight-forward, first hand account of the expedition he joined to climb Nanda
Nov 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
I wanted to read another book about the Nanda Devi expedition featuring Willi Unsoeld and his daughter Devi to get another perspective from someone else who had been a member of this climbing team. This book was the exact opposite of the one I read which was full of philosophies and psychological studies of the members. Mr. Roskelley's book is basically, the day was Aug/Sept whatever, the weather was good/snowy/awful/rainy, we went from this camp to that camp, I did my share of breaking trail an ...more
Dec 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book has lots of promise and hope - about an epic and courageous journey to the top of Nanda Devi in the Himalayas. Unfortunately, this book falls so short in many ways. The author is a climber, not a writer. His style of writing is neither engaging nor entertaining. Only the very end of the book, the last 2-3 chapters are actually worth reading. The whole first part of the book is so dry and plainly written. The entire book is more like "we did this, then we had to rest, then we fought, th ...more
Lisa Vegan
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mountain climbing book fans, anyone interested in human nature
Reading this book was a grueling experience. This is a tremendously sad and infuriating and exciting adventure story. It’s a fascinating story, even before the ascent of the mountain. Interesting when describing the erratic and ultimately poor plan and the journey to base camp. A great study in flawed human error: the poor judgment, lousy planning, inexperienced and under-qualified climbers, and most of all, the conflict between the expedition members throughout. This is a very honest account of ...more
David Ellis
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
While I gave Roskelley's Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition five stars, I did so with several caveats. One really has to work to keep all the participants straight and to understand the climbing lingo (from the 1970s). One the other hand, he captures the emotions and spirit of the expedition as well as the time. This book is on my short list of books, along with The Epic of Gilgamesh, to adapt into graphic novel format as a way of learning that art form.
Jonathan Reed
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A staggering glimpse of the triumph and tragedy that befell the 1976 expedition to Nanda Devi. John Roskelley's gripping story should serve as a standing example of how not to embark on Himalayan mountaineering expeditions. The immense hubris of this expedition cannot help but create a sense of impending dread in the reader as they progress through this book. A phenomenal read, and very hard to put down.
Deb Grove
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am currently reading and re-reading mountain climbing and expedition books. This one by John Roskelly is well-written with lots of details. He kept very good diaries that allowed him to write it as such. The expedition pulled in climbers with strong personalities so there was a lot of conflict between those involved. Some of it remains today.
Apr 23, 2012 rated it liked it
I've wanted to read this book for a long time and finally have. It was published in 1987 and chronicles the climbing expedition of Nanda Devi where the young woman named for the mountain perishes. Sad, but now I have a basic understanding of what went wrong.
Mar 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not too bad, I initially was worried that it would be an egocentric account with blame being placed on all surviving members. It turned out to be neither that nor terribly tragic. Elicits the landscape and culture of the Himalaya well.
Rich Draves
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great story of an expedition to the greater ranges. Roskelley's account is very open and honest about dissension in the team. It gives a very good feel for what it is like to participate in such an adventure.
Feb 04, 2009 rated it liked it
An interesting read and a tragic story.
Nov 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Mountain climbers
Recommended to Lexi by: Dad
Shelves: non-fiction
This book follows the true story of a group of mountain climbers set to conquer the Himalayan peak Nanda Devi. Great adventure book for people who love mountain climbing or hiking.
Richard Kravitz
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Been too long, but a good read. "Tragic" for sure. I don't think anyone can compare with David Roberts, but Roskelley does a good job.
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting read. After this, I researched on this expedition and the people involved. Looking for more mountaineers' books to read now.
Nate Hendrix
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this knowing how it ended, but not the details. It made for a tense read wondering exactly when and how she would die. It is well written, but the title says it all, a tragic expedition.
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Tragic and powerful!
Denis Hall
A good mountaineering read demonstrating how twisted expedition interpersonal conflicts can affect an effort.
Jan 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mountaineering
Very interesting read about how an expedition can go wrong. Arguements, inexperienced climbers and the tragic death of a young women.
rated it it was ok
Jan 19, 2013
Kevin Frost
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Jan 24, 2011
Lindsey Berg
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Joanne  Clarke Gunter
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Oct 13, 2012
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