In April 2012 Mark Horrell travelled to Tibet hoping to become, if not the first person to climb Mount Everest, at least the first Karl Pilkington lookalike to do so.
He joined a mountaineering expedition which included an Australian sexagenarian, two Brits whose idea of hydration meant a box of red wine, and a New Zealander who enjoyed reminding his teammates of the perils of altitude sickness and the number of ways they might die on summit day.
The media often write about Mount Everest deaths and how easy the world’s highest mountain has become to climb, but how accurately does this reflect reality?
The Chomolungma Diaries is a true story of ordinary people climbing Mount Everest with a commercial expedition, and preparing for the biggest day of their lives.
Imagine your life clipped into a narrow line of cord five miles above the earth, on the world’s most terrifying ridge walk. This book will bring you just a little bit closer to that experience.
For many years Mark Horrell has been writing what has been described as one of the most credible Everest opinion blogs out there. He writes about trekking and mountaineering from the often silent perspective of the commercial client.
For nearly 20 years he has been exploring the world’s greater mountain ranges and keeping a diary of his travels. As a writer he strives to do for mountain history what Bill Bryson did for long-distance hiking.
Several of his expedition diaries are available from the major online bookstores. He has published two full-length books: Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest (2015), about his ten-year journey from hill walker to Everest climber, and Feet and Wheels to Chimborazo (2019), about an expedition to cycle and climb from sea level to the furthest point from the centre of the earth.
His favourite mountaineering book is The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W.E. Bowman.
This book is about a climbing expedition on the North Face of Everest. It sounds like a very wild and windy environment even at Base Camp compared to what I have read about those on the South side. Both sides of the mountain of course have their own unique challenges.
Mark's challenges begin with twitchy Chinese officials at the border and keeping up with everyone else in the alcohol drinking stakes. That's all everyone seems to do is sit around getting drunk every chance they get. If I had spent all that time and money getting to Everest I'd be concentrating on getting as much food and water into me as I could and getting more sleep for the tough days ahead instead of getting pissed daily. If I wanted to do that, I could do it at home much cheaper with a tikka masala and a good film on dvd.
Tensions are high when a Russian priest plans to put a cross on the mountain top which is disgusting and rude. To go into a country as a guest and to offend the people by planning a stunt like this shows why the church is so out of touch with people today. This man should have been thrown out the country and banned from coming back.
Mark finds it is the struggle of keeping going step after step and pushing through the pain and tiredness that is so difficult. I can't imagine how stubborn you must be to force yourself on when it is so much easier to give up. I was cheering Mark on every step of the way and hoping he would make it.
It is on the descent of the mountain that something bizarre happens. Mark and his sherpa are stuck behind someone who seems have gone a bit mad, trying to stop them passing or getting away from him. It is a hairy descent anyway by the sound of it but you just don't need this kind of drama! Mark then passes another man who is still on his way up alone and will be attempting to descend in the dark, to Mark's alarm. A lot of people might be sniffing about how climbers should do more to help get these people to safety but I don't agree. Mark and his guide are responsible for getting themselves down safely. If others choose to push boundaries or refuse help and advice, you have to just go ahead and save yourself instead of dying with them.
This was a really good travel diary and the best of the series. It really gives you an insight into the boredom of Base Camp, the conditions and physical cost of the climb and how easy tragedy can unfold around you.
This travelogue is exactly what it claims to be: a "lightly edited" account of Mark Horrell's notes and experiences climbing Everest as part of a commercial expedition. "Lightly edited" is putting it kindly, and while I respect that Horrell wants to keep it an honest travelogue and not an epic adventure novel, the many obvious grammar errors were hard for me to ignore. It's a quick read, but more than once the phrase "Easy reading is damn hard writing" came to mind, as much of the writing is... well, what you would expect from someone existing at 8,000 feet above sea level.
Still, it's a mountaineering account, and the no-nonsense, matter-of-fact approach was a different take on things than some of the other books I've read by other climbers. It's not meant to be a well-crafted, edited story: it's meant to be a self-published adventure diary. And it is. Exactly that.
Interesting account of a successful guided Everest expedition from the point of view of a client. It’s fashionable among the climbing community to sneer at the “yak routes” on Everest and bemoan the commercialization of the peak, especially after Krakauer’s Into Thin Air provided such a harsh critique of the inexperience of some clients on guided trips. “If you haven’t the skill to climb the mountain on your own, you shouldn’t be there,” is a sentiment I’ve heard many times at a crag. Talk got even more heated after the 2014 avalanche in the icefall that killed so many Sherpas. I read many a rant about uncaring westerners exploiting and endangering their hired Sherpas, all so a bunch of rich wanna-bes can brag about ticking off an item on their bucket list.
Horrell provides a view from the other side. He’s not some rich surgeon or CEO, he’s just a regular guy who started off trekking and hiking and grew to love climbing big mountains. He’s oriented his life around going on expeditions; he works to save up money (not too hard with good computer skills and a minimalist, single lifestyle), then heading out on his next trip. He didn’t just leap onto Everest, he climbed a bunch of lesser peaks first (all on guided expeditions), gaining skill and confidence until he felt ready to tackle Everest. The Chomolungma Diaries is his account of his climb from the north (Tibetan) side of the peak. It’s a good read; Horrell has a dry, self-deprecating humor that makes him quite likable as a narrator. He details quite thoroughly his thoughts and fears, without succumbing to the temptation to overdramatize or glorify his experiences. Looking at the book as a travel narrative, the one flaw is that he’s not quite as good at conveying the character of his fellow climbers. They feel like thumbnail sketches rather than real people, perhaps because Horrell didn’t want to offend anyone by being too vivid in his portrayals.
Looking at the book as a defense of guided Everest climbing...I am not sure it quite succeeds, though Horrell spends a fair bit of time discussing the issue in a thoughtful manner. What it does succeed excellently at is providing a “regular guy’s” view of what a commercial expedition is really like. I enjoyed the read enough I went on to buy and read Horrell’s more extensive account of his experience with trekking and climbing, Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest. Besides, as of this writing, The Chomolungma Diaries is certainly a good value: it’s free on Amazon. I’d recommend it for anyone with an interest in mountaineering.
Quite of a fresh point of view, and more of an irreverent one, Mark Horrell's book is a breath of fresh air among mountaineering books, bringing mundane-ness and a dose of reality to this genre. I have read many classics in mountaineering and being a climber myself know what is behind the lines in these classics- but Mark extracts the most intriguing aspects of a commercial expeditions laying it bare. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
This was an ok read. I get that it’s supposed to be just a slightly edited version of Horrell’s travel diary but a prolog setting up who, where, what, and why would have been nice for those of us not familiar with the author or his blog. A quick and easy read but one I’m glad I got for free.
I enjoyed this book and the insights into the daunting challenges of climbing Chomolungma. The actual ascent and descent from the summit was the most engaging part. I did find it a little more than mindboggling that many of the team of climbers, imminently getting ready to ascend Mt. Everest, would be getting intoxicated almost daily, rather than being disciplined for what they were preparing to do. I also didn't care for the sometimes crude humor.
Notwithstanding these distractions and annoyances from the core of the story, my rating is based on the important aspects of the diary and the climb. I honestly would have loved to hear more about Phil and Margaret, rather than the drinking exploits.
The best way to ease this anxiety is not to think about the climb as a whole – that I am planning to climb Everest, the highest mountain in the world, with a rich history of deadly incidents – but to take each day as it comes, that today all I need to do is walk from A to B, then rest. It’s the same with any big project. There’s no point getting intimidated by the scale of the whole thing; just break it down into manageable chunks”
Mark's books are not for the conventional reader, if one is looking for perfect prose and writing. It is more for one who is in love with the mountains. The writing style is pretty simple and conveys ideas and perspectives well. Hence, the restraint on my part from giving it 5 stars. The content in terms of minutiae and various viewpoints from a trekker perspective, however, is simply outstanding. He has a knack of putting humour to very good use and including a small line at key places which changes the whole mood of the chapter. Overall, a very good book if you are looking at easy reading
Honest, a blend of appreciation and self knowledge
Realistic, candid, humble and humorous. A person you can identify with, a balanced perspective laced with sardonic wit. Bluntly admits to moments of sheer terror, including a ominous portent that after emerging intact from ascent, trekking back to base camp his journey will close with a humiliating trampling by yaks . Hah! Very human.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book giving Mark’s experience of climbing Everest. A ‘must’ for anyone considering the climb giving full details of the difficulties likely to be encountered and for everyone else a very enjoyable read.
A Kindle book that is the actual diary of a climber that was on a successful expedition up the north(Tibetan) side of Everest. So many books have been written about climbing the south side of Everest that it is nice to read descriptions of the features climbed on the north side. The story is a quick read (not sure how many pages because it is a kindle edition only) but an enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys mountain climbing stories.
A fascinating clients view of a successful Everest expedition. I'm more used to reading the disaster type mountaineering books so this was a refreshing change. It comes across as a very honest portrayal of the experience of climbing Everest as part of a commercial expedition, without all the flowery crap you often get from people looking back through rose tinted glasses.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading mountain literature and wants a different perspective :-)
The second of Mark's books that I've read, and I'll certainly be trying to read all of his his ebooks. An account of being a paying client on a commercial expedition to summit Everest. Horrel writes in a simple but entertaining fashion, and his books a relatively short - but sometimes brevity is no bad thing.
Interesting easy read about the north side summit assault of Mount Everest . I like the straight and honest approach. It's more of a diary and makes for excellent reading if you like mountain climbing stories.
A lovely, down to earth account of one man's summit attempt on the north side of Everest. Brought the whole experience to vivid life, never shying away from describing his own fears and weaknesses. This is the second of Mark's books I've read and I'm fast becoming a fan!