Last updated Sept. 10, 2018
III. Book List
Dramatis Personae up to 1921.
(A Separate, companion, web page)
The Greater Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamirs, Hindu-Kush, Tibet & High Tartary: Dramatis Personae up to 1921.
. (A Separate, companion, web page)
The Greater Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamirs, Hindu-Kush, Tibet & High Tartary: Historical Time-line.
The following has grown out of my fascination with books on history, exploration, and mountaineering - with an emphasis on the the central Asian regions bordering the Himalaya. This page has three main parts:
Essays, overviews and book lists, covering aspects of the literature that are of particular interest to me, and/or list books on a particular topic. The essays are works in progress, and are revised constantly as I read and learn more. The topics of the overviews, can be found in the Table of Contents . Clicking on any entry will take you to the indicated section.
List of Books in my collection, sorted by author
Annotated bibliography of those same books, also sorted by author, including cross links to related books.
Besides simply helping me organize my own thoughts, my hope is that this document will be of interest and a guide to others who share my passion for the topics covered.
I have also constructed two companion pages. The first is, The Greater Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamirs, Hindu-Kush, Tibet & High Tartary: Dramatis Personae. As its name suggests, this page is a directory to the main characters who played roles in the history covered in my book collection. In order to keep it manageable, this "dramatis personae" covers only those active prior to the first Everest expedition, which took place in 1921. The second is, The Greater Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamirs, Hindu-Kush, Tibet & High Tartary: Historical Time-line. Again, as its name suggests, this is an attempt to build up a time-line of significant events in the history and exploration of the indicated areas. I am attempting to construct cross-links among entries in the various pages such that, for example, clicking on a name in the time-line will take you to the biographical note in the Dramatis Personae, and clicking on a reference title on that page will take you to the appropriate bibliographic reference on this page. And, in case it is of interest. Finally, note that I also have a page that parallels this one, dealing with my collection of books on the fur trade in Canada, the exploration of Canada, and the Canoe.
All of this is a work in progress, and should be considered "open source". That is, contributions, suggestions and corrections by interested parties are solicited.
It is only correct that I acknowledge my friend Piers Handling, who has had a great influence on both my reading and, through our discussions, the formation of my thoughts on much of what is written below. I also want to thank Daren Fawkes, of Melbourne, who invested a significant effort in proof reading, correcting and improving what I have written.
Those interested in the mountaineering literature are referred to Neate's, Mountaineering and Its Literature,which is a fairly comprehensive annotated biography. As well, see the Alpine Club Library Catalogue 1982, Vol. 1: Books and Periodicals. Another good bibliographic source is Baume's Sivalaya, which chronicles the history of the fourteen 8,000 metre peaks in the Himalaya, with an extensive bibliography. The definitive bibliography on Everest is the too little known Climbing Mount Everest: The Bibliography (Salkeld & Boyle, 1993). See also my From First Sight to Summit: A Guide to the Literature on Everest up to the 1953 Ascent, which unlike Salkeld & Boyle, only covers books, and primarily those of first-person accounts up to the 1953 expedition, nevertheless, by being more recent, contains references that are missed in these other bibliographies.
For an incredibly rich collection of free on-line resources on the Himalaya, India and Central Asia, including large format maps, downloadable copies of rare books, etc., visit:
PAHAR Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset
For primary sources, the interested reader is directed to the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London / Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, which are on-line at:
The good news that the full text of every issue, dating right back to the first in 1879, is on-line. While there is a charge to access the journal from the web site above, most good university research libraries have a license with JSTOR and provide access to the site for free, if you have a card for that library. Highly recommended.
To those interested in acquiring any of the books cited in those references, or mentioned below (including 1st or early editions and those that are hard to find or out of print), I have had a very good experience with:
However, there is a third such site that I have recently become aware of which searches both of the above and may turn out to be the best place to start your search.
Likewise, I have had very good experience with:
If you are interested in first person accounts of early explorers in Central Asia, India, the Himalaya, etc., but can't find or afford the original out-of-print books, Vedams has an outstanding collection of modern reprints at very reasonable prices:
Next, I would be remiss if I did not provide pointers to information on the mountains in my own country:
Finally, I welcome comments and suggestions about this page, the literature, etc.
Rather than provide a comprehensive history of the area or its discovery and exploration by the west, the main purpose of this section is to provide an overview that ties together my books and reading on these topics. It is as much for my own benefit as for any third party reader. It is a guide which is hopefully easier to navigate than a list of book titles.
If you want to go deeper into the history of exporation in China and Tibet, then I highly recommend the complementary pages of Matthias Claus on "Reisen und Abenteuer in China und Tibet.". One page is a comprehensive annotated chronology of exploration of China and Tibet from 1243 - 1949, and the other covers the same material, but is organized alphabetically, by person. These pages are in German.
I also highly recommend spending time on the web site of the British Library. There you will find excellent time-lines, guides to particular aspects of the literature concerning Asia - not suprisingly - especially as concerns the British East India Company. See for example the Aid for Researchers page (and associated links) on Afghanistan: http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/asia/afghanistan/afghanistancollection/introduction.html.
Since the topic is so broad, it is difficult to recommend any single book that covers the literature or the scope of my interests. One notable exception, however, is Cameron's 1984 volume, produced in association with the Royal Geographical Society: Mountains of the Gods: The Himalaya and the Mountains of Central Asia. If you only buy one book to cover what follows (and it is affordable), this might be it.
More than a thousand years before Younghusband made his famous overland trip from Beijing, over the Karakoram to India, Chinese travelers had made the trip, often with far fewer resources and knowledge. In the process, they laid the foundation for what was called by the German orientalist, Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen, "the Silk Road." These include Zhang Qian (Chang Ch'ien), who between 138-125 BC traveled west at the request of the Han emperor in search of allies against the invading Huns. His travel established the first link between India and China. In 68 AD, Mingdi, the second Emperor of the Han Dynasty, reputedly dreamt of a golden god in the west, and as a result dispatched a delegation of 18 headed by Cai Yin, Qin Jing and Wang Zun , who returned 3 years later with images of the Buddha. Through this process Buddhism was introduced to China.
In 399 AD the Buddhist pilgrim, Faxian (Fa-hsien) traveled across to the Pamir Plateau, and through India. He returned by sea, via Ceylon and Sumatra, reaching China in 413. Another great Chinese traveler was Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsiang, Hsuan-tsang). He was a Buddhist monk who in 629 went on a 10, 000 mile pilgrimage from central China to India in order to study Buddhist manuscripts in their original form. He traveled through Kyrgistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, returning in 645. His trip is covered in books by Grousset and Wriggins.
Shortly after, the diplomat Wang Xuan-ce traveled to India and Nepal, and established for the first time, the shorter but more difficult route of the passes into Nepal, rather than the longer route through the Pamirs. And, on a larger scale, in 747 the Chinese general Gao Xianzhi (Kao Hsien-chih) led an army from China into Yasin and Gilgit, where he defeated the Tibetans and checked the spread of Islam over the passes of the Pamirs.
One book which covers the culture and history of Buddhism in the 7th century is Grousset's, In the Footsteps of the Buddha. Another source for the history of the Silk Road, and travel from China, along the Silk Road, can be found in the various books by, and about, the archeaological explorations of the region. One overview of this is Hopkirk's, Foreign Devils on the Silk Road. Perhaps the best known archaeologist working in this area was Sir Aurial Stein. While I do not yet have any of his books, a list of some of the key ones can be found in the entry for him on my Dramatis Personae page. As well, his activities are well covered in the two biographies of him that I have, one by Mirsky, the other by Walker.
Perhaps the first record of a European reaching this region is Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), who reached Central Asia and India between 343-323 BC. The next great travelers, of whom a record exists, came from the East, not Europe.
After Alexander, the next European who left a record of traveling through the area, that I am aware of, is Marco Polo, whose The Adventures of Marco Polo, was first published in 1298. While some have questioned whether this book was history or fiction, or a combination of the two, what is clear is that his account was standard reading for those who followed, right through the 19th century.
The next European to travel in Tibet, and perhaps reach Lhasa (although this is disputed, and there are no written accounts), was Oderico of Pordenone, a Franciscan friar who journeyed overland from Beijing, through Tibet in 1327. Two other early European visitors to Tibet were the Portuguese Fathers Antonio de Andrada (Andrade) and Marques, who reached Tsaparang in South West Tibet in 1624. Father Andrada returned with colleagues in 1625 and established a mission there which lasted until 1630 (along with a second one in Rudok, 150 miles further north). Two other Jesuit priests who were early travelers in Tibet were Fathers John Grueber and Albert d'Orville. In 1661 they traveled overland from Beijing to Rome. Depending on the legitimacy of the claims by Oderico of Pordenone, they were either the first or second Europeans to reach Lhasa. Regardless, there was a Capuchin mission resident in Lhasa 1707-1711, 1716-1733 and 1741-1745 (Petech, 1949). A good summary of many of these, and other, early travels can be found in, Early Jesuit Travellers in Central Asia, 1603-1721, by Wessels.
One of the travelers covered by Wessels is another early Jesuit priest, Father Desideri. He traveled into Tibet via Delhi, Kashmir, Ladakh between 1712-1727, and was inLhasabetween 1716-1721. An edited first person account of his travels can be found in, An Account of Tibet. As well, brief summary of the history of Catholic travelers and missions in Tibet can be found on-line in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Most of my reading on Tibet has to do with the early British contact and exploration. (What follows in this overview is by no means comprehensive.) This began in the 18th century, and was centred around the experiences of three men: George Bogle, who was in Tibet in 1774-5, Samuel Turner who was there in 1783-4 and Thomas Manning, who went in 1811-12. (Only Manning reached Lhasa, which is ironic, since he didn't really want to be there, he wanted to go to Beijing.) The history around these visits is covered in Woodcock's Into Tibet: The Early British Explorers, Lamb's British India and Tibet 1766-1910, and Cammann's Trade Through the Himalayas - The Early British Attempts to Open Tibet. See also Petech (1949) and Teltscher (2006). To varying degrees, each of these books includes a general history of Tibet, however, the book by Cammann is especially well researched and concise. It also covers the Gurkha invasion of Tibet which led to Kirkpatrick's 1793 mission to Nepal. The account of this mission by Kirkpatrick, An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul ..., is an important source on the history of that country.
The next Europeans to reach Lhasa, after Manning, were the French Lazarist missionaries, Evariste Régis Huc and Joseph Gabet, who traveled to Tibet from the north, starting north of Beijing, and passing through Mongolia, arriving in Lhasa in January 1846. Their trip is described in Huc's classic 1852 narrative, Travels in Tartary, Thibet, and China.
Other early British contact with Tibet included an expedition to South Western Tibet by Col. Henry Strachey in 1846 and by Col. Edmund Smyth in 1862. Much of the exploration of Western Tibet in this period, including that of Smyth, is covered in Allen's excellentA Mountain in Tibet. The American, Woodville Rockhill made two remarkable journeys into Tibet, both in disguise, in 1888 and 1889, which are described in five articles that he published in Century Magazine, as well as another article, Explorations in Mongolia and Tibet. While he did not reach Lhasa, he made a lasting contribution by his scholarship, in his written observations of the people, culture, and surveying.
Another expedition of interest is that of the Littledales in 1894-5, in which they came within 49 miles of Lhasa, before being turned away. (See the article by the Littledales as well as the recent biography by Elizabeth and Nicholas Clinch.) But one of my favorite characters from this period is Henry Savage Landor whose exaggerated account of his experiences in Tibet in 1897, In the Forbidden Land, wins the prize for Victorian Age tabloid journalism.
It was a Japanese Buddhist monk, Ekai Kawaguchi, who wrote the next significant chronicle of travels in Tibet and about its culture. He was in Tibet for about three years, beginning in early 1899. He spoke and read Tibetan, and spent much of his time in Lhasa in the Sera Monastery. His account of his travels and Tibetan life are rich, and can be found in his classic, Three Years in Tibet.
A backdrop to much of the activity in the 19th century was what Kipling called "The Great Game." This was the jockeying for power between Russia and Britain in Central Asia. This period led to a significant amount of exploration and travel, especially in the regions of the Karakoram, Hindu-Kush, Pamirs, and Turkestan. Some excellent histories that lay a foundation for understanding the nature of this "game" are Keay's two books, When Men and Mountains Meet, and The Gilgit Game, Hopkirk's, The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia, and Meyer & Brysac's, Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia. One account of travels in Turkistan can be found in MacLean's, A Person From England. And Other Travellers To Turkestan. However, the two travellers who were among the main British players of this "game" were Ney Elias and Francis Younghusband. Elias wrote little himself, but his life is covered in Morgan's biography, Ney Elias. Explorer and envoy extraordinary in High Asia. Younghusband, on the other hand, was a prolific writer, and his early travels and participation in the game are especially covered in his, The Heart of a Continent.
Insofar as Tibet was concerned, the Great Game came to a head when Britain, mainly in the person of Curzon, the Viceroy of India, believed that Russia was gaining undue influence in Tibet with the intention of gaining influence over, or access to, India. This fear was largely fueled by the activities of a Russian Buddhist lama, Aagvan Dorjiev, who was an advisor to the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, and who traveled a number of times to St. Petersburg. As a result of his fears, 1903 Curzon sent Younghusband with a military force, into Tibet in order to negotiate a treaty which would counter the (as it turned out, imagined) Russian influence, and increase the security of India's northern frontier. Younghusband's account of these events are found in his book India and Tibet. There are also two first person accounts from journalists who were with Younghusband. One is The Unveiling of Lhasa, by Edmund Candler, who was the corresponded for the Daily Mail. The other is The Opening of Tibet, by the Times correspondent, Perceval Landon. The Younghusband mission opened up the opportunity to survey parts of Tibet, and hence included a cartographer Captain C.G. Rawling whose experiences are captured in his book, The Great Plateau. An excellent overall history of this episode is provided in Fleming's Bayonets to Lhasa. It is also covered in the three biographies of Younghusband, by Seaver, Verrier, and the most recent one by French. Finally, the Intelligence Officer and Chief Translator of the invasion, Captain W.F. O'Connor, published a volume of Tibetan folk-tale that he collected, Folk-Tales from Tibet.
Younghusband was a fascinating man. His pioneering experiences in the Himalaya, such as described in The Heart of a Continent, and Wonders of the Himalaya, as well as his later involvement (as head of the Royal Geographical Society) in the early Everest expeditions, alone, would establish an important place for him in the history of the region.
The British were not the only ones exploring the region, however. In the period between 1893-1935 the Swede, Sven Hedin, made four trips to Tibet. In his inappropriately named book, A Conquest of Tibet, (not even Younghusband claimed to have done that!), he especially concentrates on his expeditions of 1899-1902 and 1905-1908. During the latter, he claims to have "discovered" things seen years earlier by Strachey and Smyth (see Longstaff, for example). Allen provides a good discussion of this controversy and its background.
Two other accounts of interest date from 1923. One is significant only because of the wonderful writing, Easton's An Unfrequented Highway. The other is the account by McGovern of his covert trip to Lhasa, To Lhasa in Disguise. The two are related, since Easton and McGovern met each other in Tibet on the latter's return trip to India.
Perhaps the best overall history of Tibet and description of its culture, up to the early 1900's, is give by Bell. who spoke Tibetan, lived there and in the region for years. He had a close relationship with the 13th Dalai Lama, and was a passionate student of the country, its people, culture and religion. A very different type of cultural study is offered in Schell's Virtual Tibet, which is an exceptionally well presented commentary on the West's perception of, and fascination with, Tibet. And, just for balance, perhaps the worst history of Tibet that I have read is Feigon's Demystifying Tibet.
There are two books that do a fairly good job of capturing Tibet and Lhasa in the late 1940's, just before it was changed forever by the Chinese invasion. The first is Harrer's well known Seven Years in Tibet. The second is the account of the trip in 1950 by the American broadcaster Thomas Lowell and his son Thomas. Jr., Out of this World: Across the Himalayas to Forbidden Tibet, written by Thomas Jr. The Lowells were only in Tibet for a very short time, so the depth of their understanding must be somewhat limited compared to Harrer, their book is very well researched, and is wonderfully illustrated, with over 100 photographs, 32 of which are in colour.
Finally, for a recent informed and balanced discussion of the "Tibet Question", see Goldstein's, The Snow Lion and the Dragon, Grunfeld's, The Making of Modern Tibet, Smith's, Tibetan Nation, and Shakya's, The Dragon in the Land of Snows, the last of these being a comprehensive history of Tibet since WW II. One other book that may be of interest, in this context, is Panikar's India and China.
The Rest of the Northern Frontier: Afghanistan, Chitral, Hunza,
Turkestan, Sikkim, Ladakh, Kashmir ...
As any of the above-mentioned general histories of the Great Game make clear, this was not only about Tibet. The "game" was being played across all of Central Asia. A number of my books deal with the history and exploration of these other regions. One of the classic overviews is Grey's 1929, European Adventurers of Northern India, 1785-1849.
Two more recent and better researched books covering exploration in the same regions are Keay's (already mentioned), When Men and Mountains Meet - The Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1820-75 and The Gilgit Game. These are outstanding well-researched sources.
Much of our detailed understanding of the mountains bordering the top of the Indian sub-continent came from the great survey of India, which was begun in 1800, and carried on for about 100 years. The story of the first 50 years of the survey is told in Keay's, The Great Arc. This includes the measuring of Nanda Devi, Makalu, Kangchenjunga, and Everest. Later activities of the survey, especially in the western Himalaya and Karakoram regions, are covered in Keay's, When Men and Mountains Meet. However, perhaps the best and most accessible account of the Great Trigonometric Survey (GTS) of India is Edney's, Mapping an Empire. It does not cover the later period of the survey, such as the survey of the Karakoram or Kashmir, but is an extremely well researched scholarly book on the survey, its execution, its implications and significance. Finally, there is also The Forbidden Frontiers: The Survey of India from 1765-1949 by Styles, which while of interest, is not especially good.
The early mapping of Tibet, however, was more difficult due to the country being closed to foreigners. Hence, much of the early mapping was done secretly. This was undertaken by the so-called "pundits" whose stories can be found in Waller, The Pundits : British Exploration of Tibet & Central Asia and Stewart's, Spying for the Raj: The Pundits and the Mapping of the Himalaya. Sale's, Mapping the Himalayas: Michael Ward and the Pundit Legacy is also an excellent resource.
For an overall history of early exploration and mountaineering in the Himalaya and surrounding mountains, Mason's, Abode of Snow and the two volumes of Kurz's, Chronique Himalayenne are key sources. See also Dyhrenfurth's, To the Third Pole, and especially Isserman and Weaver's outstanding, and more recent, Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering.
In terms of first person accounts of early mountaineering in the Himalaya and Karakoram, the main descriptions that I have are Conway's Climbing and Exploration in the Karakoram-Himalayas, the Workmans' In the Ice World of the Himalaya, and the previously mentioned The Heart of a Continent and Wonders of the Himalaya by Younghusband. These are all accounts by pioneer explorers who were active around in the late 1800's. For two excellent sources chronicling the history of the 8000 metre peaks, see Baume's, Sivalaya and Sale & Clear's, Climbing the World's 14 Highest Mountains. Each includes the climbing history of these mountains, although the former has an outstanding bibliography, while the latter is much better illustrated.
One of the key mountaineer explorers in the first part of the 1900's was Tom Longstaff, whose expeditions are documented in his book This is my Voyage. Two other key players who were kindred spirits with Longstaff, and who built upon his exploration of Nanda Devi in the Garhwal, were Tilman and Shipton. Their collective expeditions are models for all to follow and envy. Both wrote extensively. The primary sources for Shipton are compiled in the The Six Mountain Travel Books, an anthology of his writings. I also have the original editions of a number of these books, including Blank on the Map, (1943), Upon that Mountain, (1952), and The Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition, 1951, (1952). As for his frequent partner, Tilman, there is also an anthology of the books of Shipton's frequent partner, Bill Tilman, The Seven Mountain Travel Books. I also have the original editions of a number of these, including The Ascent of Nanda Devi, , (1937), Mount Everest 1938, (1948), and Nepal Himalaya, (1952). While Tilman is often described as dry and somewhat cold, his writing is anything but. He is one of the best writers that I have read in any genre, and his dry sense of humour and gift for pointed understatement is great. These are must-read books for anyone interested in the era, the geography, or the culture of the Himalaya in the first half of the 1900's. The reader is also directed to the biography, Eric Shipton - Everest and Beyond, by Steele. This provides a good overview and provides context for both Shipton's books, and the background to his not leading the 1953 British expedition to Everest. There are two biographies of Tilman. The first is Anderson's High Mountains & Cold Seas. A more recent biography is by Madge, The Last Hero -- Bill Tilman: A Biography of the Explorer.
There are a number of other first hand accounts documenting the early climbing expeditions, that include detailed accounts of the marches in and the reconnoitering of the mountain and its surroundings. These I discuss under other topics, and they appear in the annotated bibliography , below. For overviews, Unsworth's Everest - The Mountaineering History, is especially good. On a smaller scale is Curran's wonderfully written, K2: The Story of the Savage Mountain. This provides not just a history of K2, but also a review of the early exploration of the Karakoram region.
Most of the climbing books, which are written by westerners, are fairly one-sided in their treatment of the Sherpa and porters, who more often than not are treated as anonymous smiling happy people who carried equipment, set up tents, and brought tea. Morris, who was a journalist for the Times covering the 1953 British expedition to Everest, is an exception. He seemed as interested in painting a portrait of the the people and their culture as in describing Hillary's ascent of Everest. The Sherpa were key players in these expeditions, and yet the treatment of them frequently did not reflect this. For example, Unsworth describes some of the problems that occurred at the start of the 1953 British expedition due to their being treated like second class members of the expedition. The topic of the interaction of Sherpa with foreign climbers, and the impact on Sherpa culture is discussed wonderfully by Ortner in her anthropological study, Life and Death on Mt. Everest: Sherpas and Himalayan Mountaineering. Also, see her books, Sherpas Through their Rituals. and High Religion: A Cultural and Political History of Sherpa Buddhism.
Another related study is Fisher's Sherpas: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal. And, there is von Fürer-Haimendorf, The Sherpas of Nepal, which is important as the first (but not most readable or most recommended) anthropological study of the Sherpa. Finally, in this vein, in order to get a first hand perspective from the other side, the reader is directed to the two autobiographies of Tenzing Norgay, Tiger of the Snow, and After Everest, and that of Ang Tharkay (if you can find it). These are the only three written accounts by Sherpa that I am aware of, other than, Touching My Father's Soul, the account by Tenzing's son about the 1996 Everest IMAX expedition [Coburn, Breashears], and Tashi Tenzing's Tenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest.
The Tenzing and Tharkay autobiographies are worth searching out.
Different countries seem to have adopted or claimed different mountains. For example, while the British had Everest, the Germans had Nanga Parbat and Kangchenjunga (see Buhl, and Messner and Hofler for an account of Buhl's first ascent of Nanga Parbat). To a lesser degree, K2 is associated with Italy. The first reconnaissance of the mountain was by the Italian Roberto Lerco in 1890, and some of the key surveying and photographing of the mountain was undertaken in 1909 by an unsuccessful expedition to climb the mountain led by the Duke of Abruzzi. For a wonderful sample of these and other photographs, see the little volume edited by Audisio, Alpinismo Italiano in Karakoram / Italian Mountaineering in the Karakoram.) For background on the Duke of Abruzzi, see Tenderini and Shandrick's biography, The Duke of Abruzzi: An Explorer's Life. See also Clark's The Splendid Hills: The Life and Photographs of Vittorio Sella. Finally, the Italian association with K2 was consolidated by the first successful summit in 1954 by an Italian team led by Ardito Desio. Two contrasting accounts of this controversial climb can be found in Bonatti's, The Mountains of my Life and the official version, Ascent of K2: Second Highest Peak In the World, by the leader, Prof. Desio.
Finally, to help understand much of the above in the context of the times, a good general history of India is James's, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India.
Related Links of Interest:
Tibetan Studies WWW Virtual Library: http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVL-TibetanStudies.html
For an overview of the literature on Everest from first sighting until first summit, see my essay, From First Sight to Summit: A Guide to the Literature on Everest up to the 1953 Ascent.
For the student of Everest, the "Bible" is unquestionably Unsworth's Everest - The Mountaineering History (Third Edition). This is a monumental piece of well documented research. But what is most refreshing is how well it reads. It is a book that flows from cover to cover. I only wish that the authors of my history books in school had the same combination of passion, command of material and written language. This is a master work.
Another great history of Everest can be found in the collection of photographs, maps and first person accounts edited by Peter Gillman. This is a wonderful book covering the history of the mountain from its first "discovery" by Europeans up to the time of writing, 1992. If one wanted an overview of the mountain, and was going to buy only two books, I suspect that Unsworth and Gillman might be the best choices. They complement each other beautifully.
In order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1st summit, National Geographic Magazine put out a special edition in May 2003. This issue is of interest less for the articles, than for the excellent large format map of Everest, showing the key routes. What is of additional value is that this map is available on-line, as is an interactive 3D relief map of the Mountain and surrounding region, and a 360 degrees interactive panorama view from the summit. Click here to access the site. Both the physical copy of the magazine and the online resources will likely be of interest to students of the mountain.
While I have a general interest in Everest, my focus has been mainly on the expeditions leading up to the first ascent in 1953 by Hillary and Tenzing. My collection covering this period is complete (famous last words!). See From First Sight to Summit: A Guide to the Literature on Everest up to the 1953 Ascent. (Buxton, 2005). A key part of this document is the table at the end of this section.
The European exploration of the Everest region is rooted in map making. From many perspectives, there can be no empire without maps, and Britain at the time was certainly an empire. Mapping India was no small feat. Keep in mind that from the southern tip of India to the Himalaya is about the same distance as from the southern tip of Florida to Hudson’s Bay. The mapping of India, especially with the precision at which it was done, counts as one of the great achievements of the era. It is an accomplishment which is described in a number of books, including Edney's Mapping an Empire - The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843, and the Keay's briefer, more approachable The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of How India was Mapped and Everest was Named.
But then, Britain was not the only empire in the region. To the north, there was China, and as Michael Ward’s wonderful recent book points out, Everest was marked on maps by (Jesuit trained) Chinese cartographers as early as 1708 and 1718!
The Chinese cartographers, however, were not climbers. Not so the British. They did much of the early climbing in the Himalaya. However, the British cartographers didn’t think of themselves so much as mountaineers. They were simply (?) men doing a job. But the latter 1800’s did see a number of, mainly British, people in the Himalaya for the ostensibly sole purpose of climbing (ostensibly, since many were British officers on leave, and this is generally interpreted as meaning that they were also doing intelligence work). Some of the early pioneers included W.W. Graham (see essays in Macleod and in Thompson et. al), W.M. Conway, Charles Bruce, and Tom Longstaff.
As early as 1885, Clinton Dent, the then president of the Alpine Club of Great Britain, wrote that he believed that Everest could be climbed. Then, in early 1893, during a mission to bestow British recognition to the new Mehtar of Chitral, the first proposal to explore Everest was probably made. Bruce claims that Younghusband made it to him, and Younghusband claims that the idea came from Bruce. The first hint of a follow-through came in 1904, when as part of the Younghusband mission to Tibet in 1904-5, Captain C G. Rawling was dispatched to map parts of Tibet, including territory as close as 60 miles from the north side of the mountain.
While Viceroy of India, (1899-1905), Curzon attempted to initiate a joint expedition to the mountain through Nepal, by the Alpine Club and the Royal Geographical Society; however, he was not able to get approval to enter Nepal (Younghusband, 1936). In 1907, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Alpine Club, there was another attempt to organize a reconnaissance expedition, this time through Tibet; however, again permission to enter the country was denied – this time by the British government, which was afraid of upsetting ongoing negotiations with Russia (Longstaff, 1950).
To this point, most of the discussion had been more about exploring the mountain, and making a reconnaissance, not climbing it. But the article, "A Consideration of the Possibility of Ascending the Loftier Himalaya, by the climber and physician", Dr. A.M. Kellas (1916), was one of the key catalysts that started shifting mountaineers thinking about the big peaks. However, the initiative for the Alpine Club and Royal Geographical Society to form the Mount Everest Committee, and launch the first expedition grew out of the discussion following a talk to the Alpine Club in 1916 by J.B.L. Noel (Noel, 1927; Younghusband, 1926, 1936).
For a good summary of the first three British expeditions to the mountain, see Younghusband's The Epic of Everest. It is a contemporary description of the expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924, and can be easily found since it has recently been reissued in paperback. The full text and photographs are also available on line. This book is as interesting for its style as for its content. The language is old fashioned but Younghusband's perspective on the use of oxygen and "fair means" is modern, even today. Reading this early account brings one far closer to understanding the frame of mind and attitude of the protagonists than is obtained by reading about the events in more recent second-hand accounts, such as Unsworth's, (which is not a slight on Unsworth's writing or research). In 1936 Younghusband wrote another book, Everest: The Challenge, the second edition of which summarized the Everest expeditions up to 1936. It also presented his views on high altitude mountaineering and the Himalaya. It makes for interesting reading to see how his views grew, changed, and/or remained consistent between these two volumes. Finally, for two other books that synthesize the early climbs, see Murray's The Story of Everest 1921-1952, and Shipton's, Men Against Everest (originally published in the UK as The True Book About Everest).
The primary sources for the Everest expeditions are the official accounts. Concerning the pre-war expeditions to the north side of the mountain, there are Howard-Bury's Mount Everest: The Reconnaissance, 1921, Bruce's The Assault on Mount Everest, 1922, Norton's The Fight for Everest: 1924, Ruttledge's Everest 1933, Ruttledge's Everest: The Unfinished Adventure which is the account of the 1936 expedition led by Ruttledge, and Tilman's Mount Everest 1938, an account of the last pre-war expedition, and the last in this series to the North side. The account of the 1935 reconnaissance expedition led by Shipton did not appear in book form, except almost as an aside in Ruttledge's Everest: The Unfinished Adventure. However, Shipton did publish an account of the expedition "The Mount Everest Reconnaissance, 1935", in the Himalayan Journal, in 1936. However, Tony Astill, Tony has recently published the definitive book on the expedition, Mount Everest: The Reconnaissance 1935.
The 1938 expedition led by Tilman is especially interesting in how it broke tradition with all of the previous ones, in its relatively "light weight" approach. It cost about 1/4 of any of the previous attempts. While the weather dictated that no serious assault on the summit could be made, this expedition paved the way for the even smaller expeditions that Tilman and Shipton were famous for, and led to the alpine-type approaches more common today. Again, this was essentially an expedition that did not use supplemental oxygen.
There are also first person accounts from members of these expeditions. For example, Finch, and Longstaff each include chapters that document their respective participation in the 1922 expedition. A favorite of mine is Smythe's account of the 4th British expedition in 1933, Camp Six. This is an exceptionally descriptiveaccount of both the walk in through Tibet and the climb itself. As with the earlier British expeditions, the 1933 effort got tantalizingly close. Three climbers in two assaults (Wyn Harris and Wagner in the first, and Smythe in the second) matched or exceeded Norton's 1924 high point of 8, 600 metres, and did so without supplemental oxygen, and despite being plagued by bad weather. Yet another account of this 1933 expedition can be found in Shipton's early autobiography, Upon that Mountain, which also covers his experience with the expeditions of 1935, '36 and '38.
While the books that being discussed have to do with climbing the mountain, one footnote of interest is the first flight over the mountain in 1933, described by Fellowes, et. al in First over Everest, and Clydesdale & McIntyre in, The Pilots' Book of Everest. See also Etherton's The Last Strongholds andAll Over the World, as well as Douglas-Hamilton's, Roof of the World: Man's First Flight over Everest. This flight was a logistical and engineering tour de force, and resulted in the first aerial photographs of the mountain and its surroundings, which are reproduced in the books. Another interesting early flight was that of Robert Scott. In his book, God Is My Co-Pilot, he describes how he flew a P-43A in 1942, along the Brahmaputra River, into Tibet, over Lhasa (which he photographed in colour), on to Kangchenjunga, which he circled, then over Makalu and Everest.
In addition to the officially sanctioned expeditions, there was also one extraordinary 1934 covert attempt on the mountain by the EnglishmanMaurice Wilson. Wilson believed that his faith in God, and his diet, would see him to the summit, despite his complete lack of mountaineering experience. His expected success would thenprovide the world an example of the power of faith. While one cannot help but admire his spirit and determination, his judgment was lacking, and the result was that he died in his attempt. An account of his story, based largely on his extensive diaries, can be found in Roberts' I'll Climb Mount Everest Alone.
With the exception of two illicit "solo" expeditions from the north, that in 1947 by the eccentric Canadian Earl Denman, and by the Dane Klavs Becker-Larsen in 1951, and an unsubstantiated Russian attempt in 1952, until the mountain we finally climbed, the activity after W.W. II moved to the south side of the mountain - from Tibet to Nepal.
Tilman and Houston made a preliminary expedition to the Everest region in Nepal in 1950, which is one of the expeditions described in Tilman's, Nepal Himalaya. Then in 1951 Shipton led a reconnaissance expedition to the mountain, described in his Mt. Everest Reconnaissance Expedition 1951, which is also discussed by Hillary (who was part of the team) in both, High Adventure and View from the Summit. They made it through the Khumbu Ice Fall to the Western Cwm, thereby establishing that the mountain would "go" from the south side.
Then it was the turn of the Swiss. This was the first time that an official expedition had been mounted to Everest by anyone but the British, who thought of the mountain as "theirs." The Swiss made two attempts from the south in 1952, both of which are covered in Forerunners to Everest, by Dittert, Chevalley and Lambert, as well as captured photographically in, Everest: The Swiss Expeditions in Photographs, compiled by the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research. Tenzing Norgay, along with the Swiss climber Lambert, came very close to reaching the summit. Tenzing's account of the expedition can be found in his first autobiography, Tiger of the Snow. Two other books on the Swiss expeditions are, a collection of essays editted by Kurz, The Mountain World: Everest 1952, and Roch's beautiful book of photos and essays, Everest 1952.
The British, watched these expeditions with great anxiety. With the hope that the Swiss would not succeed, they made plans for an attempt in 1953. In order to be better prepared for this attempt, while the Swiss were active on Everest, the British (under Shipton) set out on a training expedition to Cho Oyo, which is described by Hillary in High Adventure.
While they came very close, the Swiss expeditions did fail, so the British had their chance in 1953 - a chance which they were well aware was likley to be their last before the mountain would be scaled. This expedition was led by Hunt, whose official account in, The Ascent of Everest, is dry, but nevertheless compelling. (In the USA the book was titled, The Conquest of Everest. I always find this term offensive. The concept of "conquering" a mountain is absurd, and is contrary to mountaineering as I think of it. However, given the military approach and siege tactics used, this title is not surprising.)
Hunt's book includes a chapter written by Hillary describing the final summit bid with Tenzing. It is extremelyinteresting to compare Hillary's account here with his more recent one in his View from the Summit. The latter describes things in a far more subjective and candid manner. Tenzing's account of the climb is covered in his first autobiography, Tiger of the Snow. One of the classic books on this expedition, and one of my favorites overall, is Noyce's South Col. In my opinion, this is one of the best "climber's eye view" in the literature. Another book worth reading is by Morris who was the correspondent for The Times assigned to the expedition. Rather than a description of the climb, it more a portrait of Nepal and the Sherpa people in the early 50's. It is a portrait such as I have not read elsewhere. A small book, but wonderful to read. While the Times had an exclusive on the story of the expedition, that didn't stop their competitor, The Daily Mail, from dispatching a correspondent to Everest. The story of the interloper, Ralph Izzard, (who was no mountaineer) is told in his, An Innocent on Everest.
For collections of photographs of the 1953 expedition, see Alfred Gregory's Everest, and Our Everest Adventure. I also think that Charles Evans' sketch book, Eye on Everest, is well worth seeking out, for its humour, as well as its sketches and cartoons. Other books relating to this climb are referenced in the table below. One thing worth noting, however, is that the feature-length documentary, The Conquest of Everest, shot by Tom Stobart, is available on the DVD, Into the Thin Air of Everest: Mountain of Dreams, Mountain of Doom, Goldhill DVD.
Another source of interest is Steele's book on Shipton, which gives a good second hand account of the expeditions immediately leading up to the 1953 expedition, and the controversy surrounding Hunt's appointment as leader over Shipton, who did not take part in the expedition (but continued to provide advice. This is an issue completely avoided in Hunt's book.
A link between the earlier and recent expeditions is found in three different books, each of which gives an account of the 1999 expedition that went out in search of the bodies of Mallory and Irvine: Ghosts of Everest - The Search for Mallory and Irvine, by Hemmleb, Johnson and Simonson, Lost on Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine, by Firstbrook, and The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest, by Anker & Roberts. (How this expedition justifies three books, I have no idea. Why I have all three is even a bigger mystery.) They aspire to be as much detective as climbing books, but this aspiration is somewhat diminished due to the rather shallow research that was conducted.
One of the key pieces of the puzzle that helped guide the search was the ice axe of Irvine. This had been found by Wyn Harris near the ridge, just below the First Step, during the 1933 expedition. Its discovery is described in the official account by Ruttledge, as well as in Smythe's, Camp Six. Significantly, Smythe's book includes an appendix specifically on the discovery of this axe, and what he believed it signified with respect to the fate of Mallory and Irvine. As it turns out, through the discoveries of the 1999 expedition, Smythe's conclusions appear to have been correct insofar as Mallory's body was found where he had predicted in this appendix. That Mallory died of exposure after a fall is now clear. What caused the fall and how Irvine died, are still unsolved, and almost certainly unsolvable questions. It is virtually certain that they did not get to the summit, and fell below the First Step (as suggested by Smythe). But the discovery of Mallory is an amazing story that further supports Smythe's judgment and understanding of mountaineering.
Those interested in more information on Mallory and Irvine, might look at Carr's little book, The Irvine Diaries: Andrew Irvine and the enigma of Everest 1924, as well as Peter and Leni Gillman's recent biography of Mallory, The Wildest Dream. If I was to recommend one book on Mallory it would probably be Last Climb, by Breashears and Salkeld. It is well written, researched, and beautifully produced. See also Wade Davis's recent book on Mallory, Into the Silence.
Coming back to Ghosts of Everest, The Lost Explorer, and Lost on Everest, while the expedition and its findings were interesting, they warrant criticism for a number of reasons. Anyone trying to uncover the "mysteries" of the Mallory and Irvine should reasonably be expected to read everything from the 1933 expedition available, such as Shipton's Upon that Mountain, and especially the appendix in Smythe's Camp Six. After all, these were the first climbers on the ridge since the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, they were climbers familiar with both Mallory and his approach to climbing, and the only people alive at the time who had first hand knowledge of the location and context. From the perspective of history and scholarship, my view is that the specific issues (analyses, conjectures, theories, etc.) made in the 1933 expedition report, and especially Smythe's appendix must be directly addressed. Yet, the only account that I found which cites, much less discusses, Smythe's Appendix, for example, is Breashears and Salkeld's Last Climb. Furthermore, my sense is that any serious analysis needs to reflect a balanced analysis of the various interpretations or possibilities that might be drawn from the data. Sadly, enthusiasm trumps analysis in books such as Ghosts of Everest and Detectives on Everest This is too bad, since - as I said earlier - some of the findings in these expeditions are interesting. However, in my opinion, they are worthy of a more serious analysis and presentation.
This general failure of most books on the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine suggests that, their efforts are often more of a treasure hunt, than scholarship or serious history. Hence, I have almost no interest in this huge, and growing, volume of books speculating on, and romanticizing, Mallory and Irvine. "Romantic musings, " rather than "research, " is generally the most appropriate description for them, and there is too much worthy literature to read to waste time on this topic, as trendy as it may be.
Now, if one does wants to find controversy, then a much better place to find it is in the American expedition of 1963, which is covered in Ullman's Americans on Everest. The ascent during that expedition of Everest's West Ridge by Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein is covered in Hornbein's Everest : The West Ridge, and in the biography of Unsoeld by Leamer, or the more recent one by roper. The story of the other half of this expedition, the ascent via the easier South Col route (which resulted in the first American ascent by Jim Whittaker ) is described in Whittaker's autobiography, a somewhat disappointing book in terms of the little light that it sheds on the climb.
For something completely different, there is Miura and Perlman's account of Miura's 1970 attempt to ski straight down the Lhoste face. He fell most of the way, and yet lived to tell about it. Even in 1978, in The Man Who Skied Down Everest, this farce is described in some heroic context of ancient Samurai. To me, this expedition, and the resulting book and film constitute some kind of bizarre cultural artifact that just makes me shake my head in bewilderment. In some ways the book is worth reading just to have it reaffirmed that truth is stranger than fiction.
A note on the following table: all of the book references below with hyperlinks are books in my collection. Clicking on the link will take you to the full citation and a summary. The format that I have followed is based on Neate (1978).
Summary of Expeditions
Dent suggests that man could climb Everest
Debate over name "Everest"
Bruce and Younghusband first suggest mounting expedition to explore Everest.
Rawling leads survey of region north of Everest.
Noel's exploration of the Tibetan Approaches
Noel (1919, 1927)
Freshfield et al. (1919)
Dr. A.M. Kellas publishes study on feasibility of climbing higher Himalayan peaks.
British Reconnaissance Expedition
Howard-Bury (1922); Howard-Bury & Mallory (1991)
British Climbing Expedition
Bridges & Tiltman (1929), Bruce (1934), Finch (1922, 1924, 1925, 1930), Gillman & Gillman (2000), Green (1990), Green (2005), Hozel & Salkeld (1986), Longstaff (1950), Morris (1960), Morshead (1982), Noel (1927), Noel (2003), Norton (2014), Pye (1927), Robertson (1969), Rodway (2008), Salkeld (2000), Somervell (1936, 1948), Styles (1967).
British Climbing Expedition. Mallory & Irvine disappear
Bridges & Tiltman (1929), Carr (1979), Gillman & Gillman (2000), Green (1990), Green (2005), Hozel & Salkeld (1986), Lowes (2014), Nicholson (1975), Noel (1927), Noel (2003), Norton (2014), Pye (1927), Robertson (1969), Salkeld (2000), Somervell (1936, 1948), Styles (1967), Summers (2000), Swinson (1971).
Summary of first three expeditions
British Climbing Expedition
First Flight Over Summit
Solo Attempt by Englishman Maurice Wilson
British Reconnaissance Expedition
British Climbing Expedition.
Analysis of British Expeditions to date
British Light Climbing Expedition
Summary of British Expeditions
Unauthorized US Flight over Mtn.
Secret flight over mountain by New Zealanders in RAF reconnaissance squadron based in Alipore, India.
Secret flight over mountain by K.D Neame, RAF
Solo Attempt by Canadian Earl Denman
Anglo-American expedition, led by Oscar Houston. First approach from Nepal by C Houston & Tilman.
Solo Attempt by Dane, Klavs Becker-Larsen
British Reconnaissance of Western Cwm
Spring Swiss Expedition, led by E. Wyss-Dunant and Fall Swiss Expedition, led by G. Chevalley.
Unsubstantiated and suspect Russian attempt from the north in fall.
Summary of Attempts from 1921-52
British First Ascent
Band (2003), Bryant (1953), Conefrey (2014), Evans (1955), Goswami (1954), Gregory (1954, 1993, 2007), Hawkins (2014), Hillary (1955, 1975, 1999), Hunt (1954, 1978a; 1978b), Izzard (1954), Lowe (1959, 2013), Lowe & Lewis-Jones (2013), Malartic (1954), Morris (1958, 1974), Norgay & Ullman (1955), Norgay & Barnes (1977), Noyce (1954), Noyce & Taylor (1954), Stobart (1953, 1958a, 1958b), Temple (1969), Tuckey (2013), Ward (1972, 2003)
An anthology of first person accounts.
Summary of Attempts
The Definitive History of Everest
In marked contrast, in terms of mountaineering, is Bonington's Everest the Hard Way, a wonderful book describing the 1975 British expedition that made the first ascent of the South West Face.
An account of the 1976 US Bicentennial expedition can be found in Ridgeway's, The Boldest Dream.
In terms of spectacular ascents of the mountain, few can compete with Messner's 1980 solo climb of the north face, without supplemental oxygen, described in The Crystal Horizon: Everest - The First Solo Ascent. This book is extremely wellwritten. It is also very well researched, in that it goes beyond the obvious, "we climbed it, and here's how" type of account. It gives a great deal of background on the mountain, as well as Tibet and the route in.
Another expedition that did the West Ridge (via the Hornbein Couloir), approached from the north side, was the Canadian Everest Light Expedition of 1986, described in Patterson's Canadians on Everest. This expedition was interesting for its light style, climbing without Sherpa support, not taking the standard route, and for getting the first North American woman, Sharon Wood to the summit.
Perhaps the most remarkable (verging on insane) expedition was the four climber oxygenless ascent of the East (Kangshung) Face in 1988, which is described by Venables in Everest Kangshung Face. This is also highly recommended. Another account of this climb, with fantastic photos, can be found in Webster's Snow in the Kingdom.
The following is a table covering the literature on Everest from the period leading up to the first British expedition in 1921, to the first ascent in 1953. The table is based on that in Neate's, Mountaineering and its Literature. I have added additional references to his, I now have all of the referenced books in my collection. I have followed Neate's format in making the table, except that I use the first author's name, rather than a number, as the reference. Clicking on the reference will take you to the full citation and annotation in my bibliography. Books associated with more than a single expediton are indicated by the entry in the "Year" column showing a range (e.g., "1921-36"), rather than single date.
Note that the
definitive bibliography on Everest, up to 1993, is the little known, but
extremely well prepared, Climbing Mount Everest:
The Bibliography, by Salkeld and Boyle. For a more recent
bibliography covering climbs up to 1953, with a focus just on books (rather than
periodicals, etc.), and first-person accounts, see my From First Sight to Summit:
A Guide to the Literature on Everest up to the 1953 Ascent.
The following table carried on from the previous
one. However, it is incomplete, and has the narrow intent of simply
cataloguing the books in my collection by expedition, more-or-less following
the table format used by Neate. Only post 1953 expeditions are included
Summary of Expedition
|1962||Second Indian Expedition||Sout Col (did not summit)||Dias (1965)|
1st American Expedition to summit
South Col, West Ridge, 1st traverse
|1965||1st Indian Expedition Ascent||South Col||Kohli (2006)|
Japanese Ski Expedition
South West Face
British S.W. Face Expedition
South West Face
American Bicentennial Expedition
First Ascent w/o Bottled Oxygen
Solo Oxygenless Alpine
Canadian National Expedition
American North Face Expedition
Canadian Everest Light
Canadian Solo Attempt
International East Face
Canadian Everest Express
International Peace Climb
North Col - N.E. Ridge
International Mountain Madness
International Adventure Consultants
International Alpine Ascents
British Himalayan Kingdoms Expedition
North Col - N.E. Ridge
South African Expedition
Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition
North Col - N.E. Ridge
Discussion about what happened on Everest in the spring of Everest has become almost as banal as it is tiresome. This is largely a result of the popularity of Krakauer's Into Thin Air. If only he wasn't such a good writer! The good news is that he draws so many people into the mountaineering literature. But then, that is also the bad news. Everyone is an expert and has an opinion, few have any practical mountaineering experience to back up their opinions, and many of these opinions are heavily biased due to Krakauer's compelling prose. My argument is not against armchair mountaineers, which would largely include myself. Rather, it is the lack of inquiry that seems to accompany this lack of on-mountain experience.
This leads to the other good news / bad news story. Partially due to the success of Krakauer's book, and partially due to the compelling nature of the events that took place, there are a number of other books that deal with the events of the spring of 1996, most of which were (like that of Krakauer) written by people who were there. The bad news is that none of them are written as well as his, so opinion is partially shaped by the best writing rather than by the best analysis (which may well be that of Krakauer, but it would be nice if this was due to a balanced evaluation of the content of the various stories rather than the form and style.)
To be fair to Krakauer, he is not only the best writer of the lot, he is also the most experienced journalist, so it is not just the quality of his prose that has given his version the weight that it has assumed.
Taken collectively, these books resemble Kurosawa's classic film Rashomon which examines the accounts of an event as recounted by a number of witnesses, each of whom has their own perspective and vested interest.
If there is a villain in Krakauer's version, it is Boukreev, the star guide on the Scott Fischer team. Hence, probably the best counterpoint to Into Thin Air is The Climb which was written by Boukreev & DeWalt. This is pretty compelling, and it is rare to see a book which is so pointedly directed at countering the opinions (real and imagined) articulated in another. And, just to make thing more interesting, the newer Illustrated Edition of Into Thin Air has a postscript that addresses some of the arguments made in The Climb. Having read both The Climb and Into Thin Air, one will be of a very different state of opinion than if one read just one or the other. Confused might be the most likely state, which is all the more reason to dig deeper. Why not? What could be better than when scholarship and one's interest merge?
Gammelgaard's book, while painful to read at times, in some ways is one of the best. Like Krakauer, Gammelgaard presents the view of one of the clients, and a relatively experienced one, at that. What I like about this book is its perspective on that seldom discussed concept: responsibility. Between the new age views, and all-too-sensitive diary entries, Gammelgaard actually addresses the issues at a reasonable level of abstraction. She is explicit in terms of articulating the philosophy of guiding as exemplified by Boukreev vs. Hall, and gives some pretty compelling arguments on the side of the Boukreev school of thought. Essentially, she is of the view that at this level, the role of the guide is to teach you to look after yourself, not to hold your hand. The underlying rationale is that when (not if) thing go wrong and you are on your own, if you are used to relying on your guide rather than yourself, you will be unprepared. From this perspective, an overly attentive guide is a danger not an asset (unless the guide can guarantee to be always there and able, which - of course - they cannot do.) In many ways, this analysis rings more true coming from a client and near-victim, than from Boukreev himself. He obviously had a more vested interest.
The story of another near-victim, Beck Weathers, as written up in the book by Weathers & Michaud, is also pretty compelling (but, as I say in the annotation to the book listing, if you are only going to do one thing, then get the IMAX Everest DVD and see the Weather's interview rather than read the book). It is pretty hard to discount the views of someone with the strength of spirit to survive despite being left for dead 3 times. A couple things are pretty interesting in this. One is the view that comes out in both the interview and the book, that there was a "them and us" thing going on on the mountain. That is, he seems to say in both the book and the DVD interview that the Fischer crew looked after their own, and left the Hall clients to their own devices (all of the Fischer team survived, other than Fischer himself). Nobody else suggests this, so it stood out pretty strongly to me. It is interesting, since as far as I can see, the behaviour of members of Hall's team towards Weathers after his first "resurrection" appears pretty shoddy, and this very much includes Krakauer, who was Weathers team-mate, and yet left him in a tent to die alone. But this is likely too simple of an analysis. However, the events around this incident alone should make it clear that Into Thin Air is "a" story, perhaps a "good" story, but not "the" story or the "only" story.
The Australian Mike Groom was one of the three guides for the Rob Hall team, and his experience is documented in a chapter of his climbing biography, Sheer Will. In some ways, Groom is self critical, especially in not having double checked on Andy Harris before descending from the South Summit. However, he seems to have handled things rather well on the mountain, in particular in terms of Beck Weathers and Yasuka Namba. He only talks about what he personally experienced, rather than trying to give the whole story. In some ways, he tells more in doing so. For example, from reading Krakauer, one might easily get the impression that the members of the Fischer and Hall teams knew each other. Reading Groom, it is clear that they did not. What Groom does not provide is any analysis or thoughts about the underlying decisions or actions on the climb. He states, for example, that the Hall and Fischer teams decided to team up on summit day to form a "powerful force trail breaking to the summit ...." without any comment on the wisdom of this decision. He states that "We planned to keep our eight climbers, three guides and five Sherpa within a distance of 100 metres from front to back" which, seems a surprising thing, given the individual differences in ability and fitness of the team, especially at that altitude. And he clearly states that the turn-around time was 1:00 pm, and yet makes no comment when he describes discussions with Hall who was still ascending at 2:00 pm. From the experience and perspective of a guide, one would hope for more insight. From a human being, I guess I understand.
Some perspective on all of this, from a bit of a distance, is found in Kropp & Lagercrantz's Ultimate High, and in Simpson's Dark Shadows Falling. While Simpson was not on Everest that spring, he has somewhat earned the right to comment on issues around the ethics of leaving people to die on mountains, given his own experience that he recounts in Touching the Void. His writing on these events is pretty interesting, (although, in my opinion, his perspective on events is perhaps too strongly shaped by Krakauer's account). He emphatically makes the point that even if you feel that you cannot do anything to keep someone alive, if you can, you should at least do your best so that they are not left to die alone.
Kropp, who was conducting his own expedition-of-one on the mountain while all of this was going on, represents the exact opposite of what Krakauer (perhaps unfairly) characterized as guided adventure tourists. His philosophy of climbing reflects his extreme definition of "fair means" (which dictates that he must carry everything to and up the mountain himself, and accept no outside help). One could only wish that his talents as a writer matched the quality of his spirit and expedition.
For contrast, contempt, and another view from those on the mountain, the accounts of two other expeditions are pretty interesting. One is the account of the IMAX expedition, represented by the well-written and confident, High Exposure, by Breashears and the companion, Everest: Mountain Without Mercy, by Coburn. The other is that of the South African expedition, led by Ian Woodall. This expedition is described in two books, both hard to find. The first to appear, in 1997, wasO'Dowd & Woodall's, Everest - Free to Decide. The second, an infinitely better book, is O'Dowd's, Just for the Love of It.
While essentially a climbing autobiography, the Breashears book spends a significant amount of space on the IMAX expedition. Both Breashears and Coburn comment on what was going on on Everest, and especially on the evacuation of Weathers. What must be said is that the IMAX team risked their expedition in order to help the Hall, Fischer and Korean teams that were caught on the South Col in the storm. Their ethics in this regard were exemplary. They risked their entire expedition to help, regrouped, and then went on to do the seeming impossible - getting an IMAX camera onto the summit and shooting some remarkable footage.
Then there was the South African expedition. From Krakauer's telling, among others, one comes away with the impression that this was one of the most divisive and incompetent expedition to ever attempt the mountain, and that the expedition leader, Woodall, must be the biggest jerk that ever picked up an ice axe. In contrast, when you read the O'Dowd & Woodall book, you find that this may have been the most harmonious, dedicated and underrated team that ever attempted the mountain. My reading suggests that the picture painted by O'Dowd & Woodall is just as disingenuous and self-serving as many of the other accounts. What does emerge is a strong sense that Woodall just seems to be someone who polarizes opinion. This is why the second book, by O'Dowd, is so interesting. Unlike the earlier book, this one addresses the conflicts within the team and with other teams. If nothing else, it is a pretty interesting portrait of human behaviour and responses.
I talk about Woodall and Breashears together largely out of mischief. Based on their written comments, it is hard to imagine greater mutual contempt. But despite what one might think of the other, it is hard to reconcile the statements, such as by Coburn, about Woodall's unwillingness to assist on the South Col, with the account by O'Dowd, (that the South Africans provided radio communications during the storm, radio batteries for the New Zealand team, and that Woodall made two forays onto the col during the storm, where it is claimed that he encountered Neil Laughton, of the Henry Todd team, on one trip, and Stuart Hutchison, of Rob Hall's team, on another). Where the truth about the South African lies is hard to determine. In addition to the disparaging comments by others, such as Kropp and Coburn, a very negative perspective of the South African expedition can be found in the account by Vernon, Ascent & Dissent: The SA Everest Expedition - The Inside Story.
But people's lives were at stake, and this was not a literary debate. This is brought to mind in Dickinson's The Death Zone, which is the account of his team's experience on the north side of the mountain at the same time. To me, it is interesting to contrast Dickinson's perspective regarding the fate of the 3 Indian climbers on the north side, to that expressed by Simpson in Dark Shadows Falling. I cannot help but wonder about the degree to which Dickinson's relative inexperience led to his "there was nothing that could be done" assessment of the situation. In medicine, there is a dictum: "You are not dead until you are warm and dead." Yes it is hard to get people warm at high altitude, much less get them down the mountain even if you can revive them. But how compelling a reason is that for leaving conscious people to die alone? Smarter and more experienced people than me hold different views on this, so I cannot claim to have any answers.
In fact, none of these books gives "the answer" or "the truth". One glimpse of common sense, and which addresses some of the most prevailing myths (as he describes them), is a 2001 interview with Stuart Hutchison in Explore magazine by Geoff Powter. It may be that all of them are too soft on Hall and Fisher who are typically shouldered with the ultimate responsibility for the controllable aspects of what went on on the south side. Despite appearing to be nice guys and highly experienced, their judgment seems to have been lacking in many regards. But Stuart Hutchison points out what each mountaineer should know: ultimate responsibility for decisions rests on the shoulders of the individual climber. In climbing as in football, it is important not to confuse arm-chair quarterbacking with the real thing, no matter how literate one might be. Strong opinions are easy to form when you have nothing a stake. But that is not to say that there is nothing to learn from reading these various accounts. It is likely never a bad thing to be reminded that there are multiple viewpoints on almost all situations.
What these books do do, is provide the catalyst for serious thought, and the opportunity to address some fairly serious issues that extend beyond mountaineering. For those who have the time, I recommend reading them all. For those who don't, I recommend Rashomon. For the true student, one should certainly do both.
Post-Script: Novice Climbers on Everest
One of the key issues that arose in the aftermath of Everest 1996 had to do with having inexperienced climbers on the mountain. Yet, absent amongst the strong words exchanged was a small matter of history - one which I believe was both germane to the issue, and could have helped lead to a less heated, and more worthy debate. The inconvenient truth is as follows: in 1922, on the north side of Everest, a new world altitude record was set, and one of the climbers setting it was on his very first climb.
Captain (later Major General) Geoffrey Bruce was a British officer in the Indian Army. Despite having no previous climbing experience, he was invited by his cousin, General Charles Bruce, to join the 1922 British Everest Expedition in the capacity of transportation officer and interpreter. Due to a range of circumstances, including fatigue and illness amongst the climbers, Geoffrey Bruce, along with a Gurkha NCO from his regiment, Tejbir Bura (who, likewise, had no previous climbing experience), joined George Finch on a push from base camp on an attempt to get as high as possible - hopefully the summit. The three pushed above the North Col towards the north shoulder, where a storm forced them to camp. The next day they proceeded, however Tejbir turned back to the last camp due to fatigue, while Finch and Bruce continued using supplemental oxygen. In their push they reached 8,300 metres, which exceeded the previous high point (which had been reached by Mallory, Norton and Somervell without supplementary oxygen). Hence, they set a new world altitude record - and did so on Bruce's first climb! Bruce was subsequently invited to join the 1926 expedition, but this time in the joint capacity of Transportation Officer and Climber.
If one argues points in terms of black and white, there is a reasonable argument to be made that one has to draw one of two conclusions.
Either, Finch was as irresponsible in taking Tejbir Bura and Geoffrey Bruce onto the mountain, as were any of the guides on Everest. That seems especially so since I have seen no claims that any of the clients in 1996 had no previous experience. Alternatively, one has to acknowledge that the issue is not black-or-white, and is therefore worthy of a much more considered discussion.
For me, the take-away lesson is that if an issue is important enough to argue strongly, then it is also important enough to research so that it can be discussed from the most informed position possible. What is ironic is that the same technologies that can facilitate informing one’s self, also make it all the easier to draw and loudly express first reactions, before properly considering the question, much less doing one’s homework.
One of the great things about mountain culture is the breadth and depth of its literature, and access to it. This example suggests to me that too few are availing themselves of that literature before leaping into the fray with strong, inflexible opinions. The literature is just one source - deep experience being another. But especially without either or both, it strikes me that we would all be better off if we entered conversations with a bit less hubris, and certainty in our positions, and instead, did more listening, and were open to actually learning – something that I believe holds regardless on which side of the issue one is on. While I might be wrong, I am nevertheless, also listening.
Another reference if you are interested in the views of some of the participants is the following Mountainzone web sites:
In 1957, a team of four Austrians: Marcus Schmuck, Hermann Buhl, Fritz Wintersteller and Kurt Diemberger made an ascent of Broad Peak (8, 047m). This climb was remarkable for a number of reasons, mostly to do with style:
· It was accomplished without supplementary oxygen
· They had no porters on the mountain, and carried everything themselves
· All four team members summited (a first for an 8, 000 metre peak)
· By reaching the summit, Hermann Buhl became the first person to make 2 first ascents of a mountain over 8, 000 metres.
To make this expedition all the more remarkable, Markus Schmuck and Fritz Wintersteller followed their ascent of Broad Peak with a flash ascent of a nearby mountain, Skil Brum (7, 360 m), which they climbed in pure alpine style.
Starting from base camp at 4, 900 metres, they climbed to 6, 060 metres where they camped. The following day they summited and then returned to their high camp. They descended the next morning.
From base camp to base camp, the ascent of Skil Brum was done in 53 hours!
From all of the above, this 1957 expedition was a wonderful precursor of the new style that what was to follow, such as that exemplified in the climbs of Messner and Habeler.
But there was a dark side to this expedition. It suffered from interpersonal difficulties. By the time of the second successful summit attempt, the members were no longer climbing as a team of four, but as two teams of two: Schmuck and Wintersteller, and Buhl and Diemberger. Further, following the ascent of Skil Brum by Schmuck and Wintersteller, Buhl and Diemberger made an alpine-style attempt on Chogolisa (7, 654 m). It was on this attempt that Buhl was killed. Thus, the legacy of one of the most stunning expeditions in the history of Himalayan climbing has been dominated by the shadow of Hermann Buhl’s death rather than by its stellar accomplishments.
An analysis of the literature and history of this climb can be found on line in:
Buxton, William (2006). Broad Peak and the 1957 Austrian Karakoram Expedition. Canadian Alpine Journal, 89, 176-183.
A video interview that I conducted with the expedition's Pakistani liasion officer, Qader Saeed, can be found here:
Buxton, William (2005). Broad Peak 1st Ascent: An Interview with Qader Saeed.
Related literature, on which I have based this essay, includes:
· Baume, Louis. (1978).Sivalaya - the 8000-Metre Peaks of the Himalaya. Goring, England: Gastons-West Col.
· Bonington, C. (1981). Quest for Adventure. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
· Buhl, Hermann (1954). Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage - The Lonely Challenge. Seattle: The Mountaineers
· Buhl, Hermann (2005). Achttausend drüber und drunter. München: Malik, Piper Verlag.
· Buxton, William (2005). Interview with Qader Saeed, Video, 45 min
· Diemberger, K. (1959). "Broad Peak: The Austrian Karakoram Expedition 1957". In Malcolm Barnes (Ed.). The Mountain World 1958/59. London: George Allen & Company, 126-141.
· Diemberger, K. (1971). Summits and Secrets. In Diemberger, K. (1999). The Kurt Diemberger Omnibus. Seattle: The Mountaineers
· Diemberger, Kurt (1974). Herman Buhl’s Last Climbs. Mountain, 36 (June 1974), 35-39.
· Dyhrenfurth, G.O. & Dyhrenfurth, Norman (1977). Broad Peak. Mountain. 55 (May/June 1977), 40-43.
· Eiselin, Max (1961). The Ascent of Dhaulagiri. London: Oxford University Press.
· Kurosawa, Akira (1950). Rashamon. Film (Japanese original). Directed by Akira Kurosawa, based on two stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa: “Rashamon” and “In a Grove”. English publication: Rashamon and Other Stories, trans. Takashi Kojima (New York: Liveright Publishing, 1952).
· Messner, R. & Höfler, H. (2000). Hermann Buhl: Climbing without Compromise. Seattle: The Mountaineers
· Sacks, Samantha (2005). The Revision of History. Alpinist Magazine, 14, 58-65.
· Sale, Richard (2004). Broad Peak. Hildersley: Carreg Ltd
· Sale, Richard & Cleare, John. (2000).Climbing the World's 14 Highest Mountains. Seattle: The Mountaineers.
· Schmuck, Marcus (1958). Broad Peak 8047m: Meine Bergfahrten mit Hermann Buhl. Salzburg/Stuttgart: Verlag "Das Bergland-buch".
As the first mountain over 8, 000 metres that was climbed, Annapurna is a special mountain. The first ascent was made in 1950 by a French team. A collection of photographs from the climb was published in 1951 in French text in, Regards vers l’Annapurna, and the climb is described in the book, Annapurna, by the expedition leader Maurice Herzog. This latter is the largest selling mountaineering book of all time. It is a gripping story, and extremely well written. The problem is, the accuracy of the story that it tells has recently been questioned by Roberts in hisbook, True Summit - What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna.
In his book, Herzog described a heroic adventure by a team unified by a common goal. But Roberts contradicts this characterization of the expedition. A good example that he cites occurred at the airport right at the point of departure. After all the preparations, and without any advance notice, Herzog sprung an agreement on the team members compelling them not to write about the expedition for 5 years. The agreement also required them to hand over all diaries and photos at the expedition's end. The penalty for not signing was not traveling. (Remember, this was at the airport!) Herzog was to have sole control over the story and how it was told.
Likewise, in the aftermath of the climb, the team ethic described in the book, was belied by Herzog's behaviour. Far from promoting the team, the book notwithstanding, Herzog ended up receiving the bulk of the credit. Others, especially Lachenal, who also made the summit, were left in relative obscurity, while Herzog parlayed his celebrity into a very successful career in politics and business. For him the loss of his toes and fingers was worth it. Lachenal, who summitted with Herzog, wanted to turn back on summit day. He continued to the summit due to his ethics as a guide. Herzog would not turn back, and if left to continue alone, Lachenal was convinced that he would die. The result of this loyalty was that, along with his toes and fingers, he lost his ability to climb, and therefore his career. Who then, is the "hero" of Annapurna?
Given the stature that Herzog has assumed in the mountaineering community, it is not surprising that someone would come to his defense. The champion that emerged was none other than Messner, by way of his recent book, Annapurna: 50 Years of Expeditions in the Death Zone. Unfortunately for "Mr. Annapurna, " the title bestowed on Herzog by Messner, this is a hastily written and poorly argued defense.
Yes, Herzog and Lachenal got to the top and back. And, as Messner argues, they would not have done so were it not for the determination of Herzog. But the question that is begged is, "Was it worth it?" Was the summit fever, ego, and nationalistic fervor that drove Herzog to the summit something to respect, admire and celebrate, or not? Messner clearly believes that it is, even while making clear that Herzog went too far.
If the consequences affected only Herzog, then it would be easy to agree with Messner. But by his behaviour, Herzog compelled Lachenal to also suffer the consequences. But while Herzog was in some way compensated for his losses, Lachenal was not. For all intents and purposes, the making of Herzog's future career spelled the end of Lachenal's. (As an aside, it has been argued that one of the reasons for Herzog getting the credit was the summit photo taken by Lachenal. The photo of Lachenal by Herzog was not usable. Were this a credible explanation, it would be too ironic. But it isn't, and one need only reflect that there is no photo of Hillary, just Tenzing, on the summit of Everest, and yet we have heard of Hillary, nevertheless.)
If one only considers what happened on the mountain, one might again be inclined to agree with Messner. He argues that Herzog cannot be held accountable for how other people reacted to the climb, or Lachenal's choices on the mountain. Based on his actions before and after the climb, it is hard to accept Herzog's behaviour as something that happened due to the stress of being on the mountain and at altitude. His last minute making members sign the agreement not to publish for five years and to hand over materials at the end of the expedition, as a condition of going, is one example. (Note, there was little precedent for this. For example, on the British expedition to Everest in 1933, accounts were written by not only the leader, Ruttledge, but also by Boustead, Greene, Longland, Shipton (1943, 1969, 1985), Smythe (1937, 1941), and Tharkay. Herzog's censoring of Lachenal's account of the climb before it was published posthumously is another example. These and other examples make clear that Herzog's behaviour was systemic, and therefore seemingly indefensible.
Messner is not persuasive. However, it is still worth considering his viewpoint. His own accomplishments warrant his opinions being heard. Having heard them, I for one discard them as mainly specious.
Those interested in finding out more about other members of the French expedition, are directed to Terray's Conquistadors of the Useless, which is as brilliantly written as it is titled. It is an autobiography which includes a discussion of Annapurna, among other important climbs (although do not expect any controversy from Terray's account). This is probably my favorite mountaineering book of all time. I would also recommend Rébuffat's Starlight and Storm - The Conquest of the Great North Faces of the Alps which is well worth reading, although it does not discuss Annapurna.
Before leaving the topic of the 1950 ascent of Annapurna, I can't help but contrast the condition of the French team after the climb, with that of the participants of the much earlier British expeditions to Everest, such as described by Younghusband and Smythe. In 1950, Herzog and his team were climbing almost 30 years after the first British Everest expedition. They had the benefit of much more modern equipment, as well as the collective experience (through the written accounts) of seven British expeditions. Remember also, that while at 8, 091 metres, Annapurna was the first 8, 000 metre summit to be reached, the British had previously been significantly higher. As early as 1924 Norton reached 8, 600 metres on Everest without oxygen, a feat repeated by three other English climbers in 1933. Yet, unlike the British, the French were almost devastated after their climb. I think that the condition of the French team in general, and Herzog in particular, draws into question his overall judgment (as opposed to his courage or determination). (To be fair, there were incidences of frostbite in British expeditions. For example, in 1922 Mallory, Norton, Somervell and Morshead all suffered frostbite. Morshead's was serious, and he lost the tips of several fingers and a toe. And, in 1933 a Sherpa lost 3 fingers. But despite inferior equipment and climbing several years earlier, there was nothing like the devastation on Annapurna.)
Finally, in addition to making his case about Herzog, Messner's book describes a number of important climbs of the mountain, and therefore is a valuable source of information of what happened after the French expedition. And, this part of the book is much better written, perhaps because Messner was on much more familiar and firmer ground with this kind of writing.
As for other notable climbs of the mountain, the 1970 south face expedition, led by Bonington. Annapurna South Face, was an important landmark in Himalayan climbing for its style. Also worth noting is the 1978 expedition led by Blum, Annapurna: A Woman's Place, which was a landmark in women's climbing.
As perhaps the ultimate test piece in the Alps, the north face of the Eiger has a pretty broad history andliterature. Written by one of the members of the team that made the first ascent of the north face in 1938, Harrer's The White Spider is the definitive climbing history of the mountain. Reading it in 1970 was my introduction to mountaineering literature. An excellent companion to this is the collection of essays and photographs of the Eiger, Eiger: The Vertical Arena, edited by Daniel Anker. However, for the best photo that I have seen showing the routes on the face, see issue number 2 of The Alpinist journal (www.alpinist.com), page 86.
The second successful ascent was made in 1947 by the French team of Terray and Lachenal, who both played important roles in the first ascent of Annapurna in 1950. This climb is well documented in Terray's, Conquistadors of the Useless.
Terray also had a role in another account, as one of the rescuers, of an attempt in 1957 by the accidentally combined ropes of the Italians Corti and Longhi, and the Germans, Northdurft and Mayer. All but one of the climbers died, and the saving of Corti was one of the most dramatic mountain rescues of all time. The story of this climb is as complicated as it is fascinating. Harrer gives an account, but it leaves many questions unanswered, and by necessity, does not go into great detail. Terray's book, besides discussing his own ascent in 1947, also includes an account of his part in the rescue. However the ultimate story of this climb is Olsen's 1962 classic The Climb up to Hell, which has recently been reissued as a paperback.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the climbing literature is comparing different accounts of the same climb. In this regard the Eiger offers up a wonderful contrast between the 1952 8th ascent by the "not really by choice" combined French and Austrian teams. The Austrian team was led by Buhl, and his version of the climb is documented in Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage - The Lonely Challenge. The French team was led by Rébuffat, of Annapurna fame, and is documented in Starlight and Storm - The Conquest of the Great North Faces of the Alps. As stated elsewhere, I found the Buhl book a painful read in many ways, since it is more of a diary of seemingly every climb that he ever made, regardless of importance. But it is worth getting even if only to read about the Eiger and Nanga Parbat ascents.
Another interesting account is that of the 1959 ascent by Diemberger and Stefan, documented in Summits and Secrets found in The Kurt Diemberger Omnibus. Contrasting this climb with the first ascent provides a nice sense of how mountaineering had developed over the intervening 21 years. One can say the same about Hargreaves' solo ascent in 1993, While it was not on the north face proper, it was remarkable in its speed and new line on the Lauper Face.
Finally, the reader is directed to Gillman & Haston's account of the American-UK marathon first ascent of the direct route of the North Face, in Eiger Direct. The book is gripping in its description of this marathon effort, in which the leader, John Harlin, fell to his death. Other accounts of this climb can be found in Lehne & Haag (1966), with the most comprehensive history being Gillman & Gillman (2015).
See also Haston's The Eiger, which chronicles the history of the Eiger's north face from that climb in 1966 to 1974, when his book was published.
The literature on mountaineering and exploration in the Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamirs, and Hindu Kush has mostly been from the perspective of the mountaineer, or explorer, virtually all of whom were foreign to the area being described. The perspective of the indigenous people who frequently were carrying the loads, and whose lands were being explored is seldom heard. At worst, the foreigners write as if they were the only ones on the expedition. Think about Denman titling his book, Alone to Everest, for example. He might be the only person on the planet who would consider himself alone when accompanied by Tenzing Norgay! Less extreme, but another example of the same foreigner centric perspective, is the often seen practice of reducing the natives into a generic group, rather than individuals, in photo captions (e.g., "John Doe on the summit with a Sherpa"), or in the text (e.g., "John Doe and two Sherpa spent the night on the South Col."). This is not only a European and North American trait. Consider Miura and Perlman's, The Man Who Skied Down Everest. Six Sherpa died in the Khumbu Ice Fall carrying loads for Miura's team. While he gives lip service to the question of death, he neither names the Sherpa who died in the service of his expedition, nor went to their memorial service. They are just "six Sherpa." However, he does manage to name all of the Japanese climbers who were in the ice fall at the time, all of whom survived!
Some of this is simple ignorance. Some of it is racism. Some of it reflects the values at the time that the accounts were written. For example, in Five Miles High, we see Houston writing about the Sherpa, "To them an attempt on a high mountains a pilgrimage and the white climber almost a holy man." (p. 31-32), and Bates writing, "... so we stowed the Sherpas in two lorries crammed with crates and bundles, arranged ourselves more expansively in two cars, and began the 180-mile drive to the Vale of Kashmir." (p.48). While Houston's high regard for the Sherpa is made abundantly clear in other passages of the book, it is equally clear that passages such as those quoted are, on the one hand, not uncommon in the literature of the time, and on the other, impossible to imagine appearing in print today. The times and attitudes have changed for the better - not to say that there isn't still a ways to go.
What is clear, however, is that without native help and guidance, most foreign expeditions would never have accomplished what they did, and the indigenous help have generally gotten far less credit than they deserved in the aftermath. That is starting to change with recent books such as Zuckerman & Padoan's 2012, Buried in the Sky.
But a key reason that the native's voice, itself, has not been heard more has to do with the fact that most of them were illiterate - despite often being excellent linguists. For the most part, they have had to rely upon others presenting their history, such as Neale's Tigers of the Snow. There are, however, a very few older books that have captured the first person stories of some of those who participated in early pioneering expeditions. These are as precious as they are interesting. This is one area of the literature where I believe that I have all of the books that have appeared.
The earliest of these is Servant of Sahibs, which is the 1923 autobiography of Ghulam Rassul Galwan. Among other things, Galwan traveled with Younghusband in Chinese Turkistan, as well as the Littledales, and Lord Dunmore with Major Roche in the western Himalaya.
This book is unique in that it is the only one from the early period which was not an "as told to" book. This is due to Robert Le Moyne and Katharine Ruth Barrett, for whom Galwan served as sirdar in later years. They were so taken by his stories that they taught him to write English and had him write his stories and arranged for publication. What most adds to the book is that they did not edit or correct his writing except when neccessary for understanding the text. Hence, the voice is decidedly his. This is a book which cries out to be read aloud. When one does so, the listener is transported to the campfire, where the stories were originally told. One final note about this volume: the Barrets, undertook the project of this book anonymously - a testament to their values and character. This is one of my favourite books in my entire library!
Second, there is the 1954 autobiography of Ang Tharkay, Mémoires d'un Sherpa. Ang Tharkay was one of the most famous of the Sherpa in the early days of Himalaya mountaineering. He accompanied Shipton on no less than eight of his expeditions. He was also sirdar on the 1950 French expedition to Annapurna, led by Herzog. Ang Tharkay was both Tenzing's landlord in the latter's early days in Darjeeling, and his climbing mentor - he hired Tenzing for his first job in the mountains. Until recently, this book has only been issued in French - it appearing in that language as a consequence of the immense interest following Annapurna - the first successful ascent of an 8,000 metre peak.
Having approached the publisher of The Mountaineers Books about it In 2005 I was on the book jury of the Banff Mountain Book Festival. While there, I approached as of 2016 an English edition has been available as part of The Mountaineers Legends and Lore series, Sherpa The Memoire of Ang Tharkay. While the translation remains true to the original book, a Dutch friend and mountaineering historian, Bob A. Schelfhout Aubertijn and I contributed substantial end notes and after-matter, while the basic translation remains true to the original text.
Third, there is Tenzing's 1955 autobiography, written with the help of James Ullman, Tiger of the Snow. As part of the 1953 expedition led by John Hunt, Tenzing, along with Hillary, was the first to summit Everest. While Tenzing could neither read nor write, he was clearly an exceptional man, not only for his climbing, but for his character and intelligence in general. While his story has been put down on paper by Ullman, his voice and thoughts come through convincingly. Tenzing was clearly a motivated man. He climbed and traveled in Chitral, Kashmir, Garhwal, and Tibet. Finding himself on the top of Everest was also no accident. He had been to Everest 6 times before: to the North Side in 1935 with Shipton, 1936 with Ruttledge and 1938 with Tilman. He had been to the South Side in the spring of 1952 with Swiss team led by Wyss-Dunant, and back again in the autumn on their second attempt led by Chevalley. This is a wonderful book.
There is also a second autobiography by Tenzing, covering his life after Everest, which is where the autobiography with Ullman left off. This second autobiography, After Everest, was written with Malcolm Barnes.
Moving to more modern times, there is the 2001 autobiography of Tenzing's son, Jamling Norgay, Touching My Father's Soul: A Sherpa's Journey to the Top of Everest, written with the help of Coburn. The basic thread of the book is an account of Jamling's experience as part of the 1996 IMAX expedition to Everest (see also Breashears and Coburn). But interwoven with this are two far more interesting stories. The first of these is a meditation on his father, to and from which the story cuts throughout. The second is a seemingly quite sincere attempt to explain Sherpa culture. Again, this tread is woven into the book from beginning to end.
Another relatively recent book is the 2001, Tenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest, written by Tenzing's grandson, Tashi Tenzing. This is an account of Tenzing's life, as well as profiles of a number of other Sherpa who were involved in the early expeditions.
Finally, there are a few anthropological studies that, while being written by foreigners, are extremely valuable in terms of providing insights into native culture. The best is Sherry B. Ortner's work, including her 1999 study, Life and Death on Mt. Everest as well as her earlier, Sherpas Through their Rituals and High Religion: A Cultural and Political History of Sherpa Buddhism. I think that Life and Death ... should be compulsory reading for anyone going on, writing about or reading about expeditions in the Himalaya. It is full of insights that significantly help one interpret the literature, especially as it concerns interactions between European mountaineers and Sherpa. Another valuable reference in this regard is James Fisher's 1990 study, Sherpas: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal. See also M.S. Kohli's, Sherpas: The Himalayan Legends. Finally, there is von Fürer-Haimendorf's 1964 study, The Sherpas of Nepal: Buddhist Highlanders. This is an older academic study, whose primary importance is its being the first major study of the Sherpa, and the grandfather of those which have followed.
One of the things that has emerged during my reading is the number of women who, while largely unheralded, were doing remarkable things, very early on. Some traveled alone, and some with male partners. In either case, the prevailing attitudes seem to have been that if a woman did it, it must not have been difficult, or, if she did it with a man, he did all the work. Anybody reading these accounts today, who knows anything about the times and the region, can see that this is unfair. On the face of it, that Fanny Bullock Workman traveled with the Swiss guide, Zurbriggen, should not diminish her accomplishment any more than Conway's traveling with him.
In any case, the following books may help dispell any lingering impressions that some of these women deserve as much, or more, respect for their accomplishments as their male counterparts. And in this, be very clear, I do not say so out of some sense of "political correctness." This is about people worthy of respect, not about men or women. Most of the titles cited are from the late 19th century, or early 20th. However, I have included a few more recent titles such as Alison Hargreaves' book, since her accomplishments are remarkable by any standard.
· Barrett, Robert Le Moyne & Barrett, Katharine Ruth. (1927). The Himalayan Letters of Gypsy Davy and Lady Ba
· Blum, Arlene (1980). Annapurna: A Woman's Place
· Blum, Arlene (2005). Breaking Trail
· Bridge, Kathryn (2002). Phyllis Munday: Mountaineer
· Cabot, Mabel (2003). Vanished Kingdoms (Janet ElliottWulsin)
· David-Neel, Alexandra (1927). My Journey to Lhasa.
· Dunsheath, Joyce, Reid, Hilda, Gregory, Eileen & Delany, Frances (1958). Mountains and Memsahibs.
· Hargreaves, Alison (1994). Hard Day's Summer
· Hill, Lynn & Child, Greg (2002). Climbing Free
· Jordan, Jennifer (2005). Savage Summit: The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2
· Kendall, Elizabeth (1913). A Wayfarer in China
· Littledale, St. George R. (1896). A Journey Across Tibet From North to South and West to Ladak
· Macartney, Lady Catherine (1931). An English lady in Chinese Turkestan
· Miller, Luree (1976). On Top of the World: Five Women Explorers in Tibet
o Nina Mazuchelli
o Annie Taylor
o Isabella Bird Bishop
· Robertson, Janet (1998). Betsy Cowles Partridge: Mountaineer
· Tullis, Julie (1987). Clouds from Both Sides
· Visser-Hooft, Jenny (1926). Among The Kara-korum Glaciers.
· Visser, Ph. C. (1926). Naar onbekend Midden-Azië tusschen Kara-Korum en Hindu-Kush
· Visser, Ph. C. (1931). Door de bergwoestijnen van Azie: Karakorum
· Williams, Cicely (1973). Women on the Rope
· Workman, Fanny Bullock & Workman, William Hunter (1901). In the Ice World of the Himalaya
· Simpson, J. (1997). Touching the Void.
· Venables, S. (2000). A Slender Thread - Escaping Disaster in the Himalaya.
· Diemberger, K. (1999). The Kurt Diemberger Omnibus. - The Endless Knot
· Weathers, B. & Michaud, S. (2000). Left for Dead - My Journey Home from Everest.
Nanda Devi's position was first identified in 1816 by Webb during his survey of Kumaon. He determined the height to within 25' (his measurement was 25, 669 vs the currently accepted height of 25, 645.) When his report went back to Britain, many geographers questioned his results, not believing that there could be a mountain of that height. In 1830, G.W. Traill crossed the axis of the Himalaya over the col between Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot, thereby establishing "Traill's Pass" (17, 700').
I am not well read in this area, and this is more than a little embarrassing. I have listed below the few books that I have. The Scott book is very highly recommended by anyone who is interested in Canadian climbers, the history of Canadian climbing, or Canadian climbing locations. Nevertheless, this is an area where I need to do a serious amount of reading.
I have very few books in this area. They are:
This is an area where the quality of the books that I have is inversely proportional to the quantity. I have just one treasure, a two volume set, that was a gift from the a friend, Brendan Calder:
As I go along, I seem to be getting more and more books about cartography. I guess it comes with the turf, so to speak:
This section lists the books journals and articles in my collection, sorted by author. Clicking on the title of any entry will take you to the full citation, as well as an annotation, describing the book, along with comments and references that I thought relevant when I read it.
This section lists the periodicals in my collection. Some also appear in the book list for various reasons.
· The Alpine Journal. Vol: 99(343), 1994.
· Alpinist: I-current
· Ascent: #1: Vol. I(1) 1967; #3: Vol. I(3) 1969; #4: Vol. I(4) 1970; #5: VolI(5) 1971; #6:Vol. I(6) 1972; #7: Vol II(1) 1973; #8: Vol. II(2) 1974; #9: Vol. II(3) 1975/76; #10: III 1980; #11: IV 1984; #12: V 1989; #13: 1993; #14: 1999.
· Canadian Alpine Journal: Vol: 84(2001), 85, (2002), 86(2003), 87(2004), 88(2005)
· The Himalayan Journal: Vol: VIII, 1936.
· The Mountain World: 1953, 1955, 1958/59
This is a reasonably good resource book on the history of Afghanistan. It is divided into three main sections: a dictionary, a chronology, and a bibliography. The dictionary is good, but not great. Birth and death dates of people are frequently not given, and there are a number of pretty big omissions. For example, there is no entry for Peshawar. Worth having as a reference, but I still check other sources.
This is the only biography of William Moorcroft, one of the great early explorers of the region north west of India.He was a veterinarian who came to India in 1808 as Superintendent of East India Company's horses. He traveled widely, ostensibly in search of breeding stock, but this this was clearly more of a pretext than fact. He undertook a journey into western Tibet in 1812, across the Garhwal Himalaya to Lake Manasarowar, Mount Kailas region, the Rakas Tal, and Gartok. Moorcroft and Hearsey were the first Englishmen in the area.
His next major trip was to Bokhara. He left British territory in 1820, for a trip that would last until 1825. Due to civil unrest in Afghanistan, he decided to go via Ladakh and Chinese Turkistan. He waited in Leh for permission from Kashgar, during which time he traveled and explored the greater part of Ladakh, the Karakoram Pass, the head-waters of the Yarkand River, the Western Himalaya, the Karakoram and the NW Frontier. In 1824, after deciding that permission would never come , he decided to go via Afghanistan, regardless of the civil conflict there. Traveled through Kashmir and Punjab, over the Khyber Pass, across the Oxus, and got to Bokhara. He died during the return trip.
This is a very good account of the early European exploration of Western Tibet, in the region around Mount Kailas. (See also Snelling's, The Sacred Mountain.) The book is very well researched, and has references to material that I have not found in as much detail elsewhere. It is also wonderfully illustrated. The narrative is tied together by the stories of the successive attempts to discover the course, and especially the sources, of the four major rivers of the Indian sub-continent: the Indus, Sutlej, Ganges and Brahmaputra. It traces the discovery that the Tsangpo river in Tibet becomes the Brahmaputra, not the Irrawaddy (which had been speculated). In the process, much of the story takes place in Burma, and Central Tibet, as well. While sometimes the book does not flow as well as one would like, it is well worth reading, and includes a fascinating discussion of the controversy surrounding the "discoveries" of Sven Hedin, which alone make the book worth reading.
This book has been re-released in paperback by Abacus books. However, while the original hardcover has fantastic illustrations, nearly all have been eliminated from the paperback volume, at great loss to the reader. This is a must have book, and it is worth getting the hard cover version.
Annotation to come.
A significant bibliographic resource on the mountaineering literature.
This is the first of two biographies of Bill Tilman. The second, more recent one, is Madge's, The Last Hero -- Bill Tilman: A Biography of the Explorer. Annotation to come.
This is a brief article describing an unsanctioned flight over Everest. It was made by New Zealand pilots serving in an RAF photoreconnaissance squadron (No. 682) stationed in Alipore India. (The official flight plan was filed as, "a high altitude fuel consumption test on a course from Calcutta to Darjeeling and return.) In contrast to the 1933 flights (Fellowes, et. al, 1933; Clydesdale & McIntyre, 1936; Douglas-Hamilton, 1983; Etherton, 1934; 1946), these ones were more or less spur of the moment, which - among other things - reflects the change in aeronautic technology in the intervening years.
In this case, special versions of the de Havilland Mosquito XIX were used, which were equipped with still and movie cameras designed for aerial photography. As they had clear weather, the flights resulted in a rich set of imagery. As described in Ward & Clark, 1992 (reprinted in Ward, 2003), photographs from these flights were used by Ward in early 1951 in planning the route from the south side that was used by the successful 1953 expedition (of which Ward was a team member).
This brief article mentions two flights that were taken by the author on different days, but only discusses his flight on the first. He does, however, mention an interesting tie-in between these flights and those of 1933: the ground coordinator of the 1933 Houston Expedition, Wing Commander T.D. Connochie, accompanied him on the second day's flight. There is some confusion, however, as to how many planes were on each day's flights, and who was on them. This stems largely from discrpencies between Andrews' article and the 2004 interview with another member of the team, Jack Irvine (Hall, 2004). Given that Irvine was approaching 86 years old when the interview took place, and he was describing events that took place 64 years previously, it is understandable if some of the details are a bit muddled. Despite that, the interview is well worth reading.
This is a recent article containing new information on the person whose activities, besides Curzon, may have most led to Younghusband's invasion of Tibet. See also Kuleshov's 1996 Russia's Tibet File: The Unknown Pages in the History of Tibet's Independence and Snelling's 1993, Buddhism in Russia.
This is one of the three accounts (along with Lost on Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine, by Firstbrook, and Ghosts of Everest - The Search for Mallory and Irvine, by Hemmleb, Johnson and Simonson), of the 1999 expedition which found the body of Mallory on Everest. See the notes on the book by Hemmleb, et al. for more details on the expedition. Full annotation to come.
This is an edited volume of writings and photographs on the Eiger. It is an excellent companion to Harrer's, The White Spider.
This is a review of: Kennedy, R.H. (1840). Narrative of the Campaign of the Army of the Indus in Sind and Kaubool in 1838-9. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley
This is a wonderful editorial on, and portrait of, Dost Mohammed, written right in the middle of the first Anglo-Afghan war. It provides a lot of insight as to how the British at the time viewed the empire, in general, and Dost Mohammed, in particular. Some of the parallels to today's reporting on Afghan affairs are almost painful.
This is an excellent analysis, from the American perspective, of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It is extremely well researched, and is written in a clear academic style. This is the second "enlarged" edition, but it was still published before the Soviet withdrawal, much less the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hence, one of the things that I found most fascinating was how accurate his analysis was, even to the point of discussing the possibility that the expense of a protracted occupation could contribute to bankrupting the Soviet Union, and lead to its collapse. It has a good introductory section, that relies a lot on Gregorian. This is the best single volume that I have read on the topic. See also Bocharov and Margolis.
Unlike all the others, the Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition of 1935 did not result in an expedition book; rather, the official account by Shipton appeared as an article in the Himalayan Journal in 1936. This recent volume by Astill is, therefore, the first book devoted to the expedition.
This is a wonderful little book
which is split about evenly between a set of brief essays summarizing the
history of Italian mountaineering in the Karakoram, including the first ascent
of K2, and some photographs that are as spectacular as many of them are rare
(many by Vittorio Sella, who accompanied the Duke of Abruzzi's expedition to
K2.) The essays all appear in both English and Italian, and the language
of the photographs is universal. See also: Summit: Vittorio Sella Mountaineer and Photographer the Years 1879 - 1909,
PAESAGGI VERTICALI: La fotografia di Vittorio Sella 1879-1943 , and
, andThe Splendid Hills: The Life and Photographs of Vittorio Sella: 1859-1943.
This is a second, expanded, edition of the original 1931 volume. It is an extremely densely packed, terse compendium of the history of discovery and exploration. It has a good summary of exploration of the east by the Islamic world, prior to the European discovery of a sea route to India. It also provides one of the best, concise summaries of exploration of northern India and Central Asia that I have seen.
This is a new book that was published in association with the Royal Geographical Society, the Alpine Club and the Everest Foundation. It claims to be “the official publication celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest.” This is an interesting notion. It carries with it a bit too much of the imperialist flavour of the Mount Everest Committee of old, who tended to regard the mountain as “theirs” . Regardless, Band was the youngest member of the 1953 British team, and this book is both a summary of the mountain’s history, and an account of the 1953 climb within this historical context. It has a good selection of photographs, but the maps are rather disappointing for a publication associated with the Royal Geographical Society. Ward is much better in this regard.
Annotation to come.
Barrett, Robert Le Moyne & Barrett, Katharine Ruth. [Gypsy Davy and Lady Ba, pseud.] (1927). The Himalayan Letters of Gypsy Davy and Lady Ba. Written on pilgrimage to the high quiet places among the simple people of an old folk tale. Cambridge: Heffer & Sons.
This book is a collection of letters from the field written by the American couple Robert Le Moyne and Katharine Ruth Barrett on a trip in the Karakorum in 1923-24. The book was published under the pseudonyms "Gypsy Davy and Lady Ba." The book is unusual in using letters rather than the more conventional narrative style. But is even more atypical in terms of its style and quality of of description. Some of the writing borders on poetry, and reflects a total delight in the surrounds. I love this book. Apart from that, the Barretts are interesting to me due to their efforts in encouraging their caravan bashi, Ghulam Rassul Galwan, to write one of my other favourite books, Servant of Sahibs.
Note: The first US edition of this book was from Houghton Mifflin, Boston, also in 1927.
Despite having negligible climbing experience, American Dick Bass and fellow businessman Frank Wells got it into their minds to be the first to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents (listed below in order of descending elevation):
And they succeeded. This is an account of their quest. While much has been made of the financial resources that they brought to their effort, it is unfair to say (as some have) that they "bought" the feat. On the one hand, it is clear that without the help and guidance (literally) of a number of world-class climbers (such as Ridgeway, Chris Bonington, Yvon Chouinard, David Breashears & Jim Wickwire - among others), they would never have had a chance. (According to the book, Wickwire was teaching Bass how to belay as well as ice climb while ascending the Polish Glacier route on Aconcagua.) On the other hand, there is no questioning their commitment to the task. They were both over 50, and out of shape. But they did what they needed to do, including - in Wells' case - quit his job as head of Warner Bros. So, yes they succeeded and were first. But, as happens in such things, that is where some of the controversy comes into play. Strictly speaking, the highest "mountain" in Australia is Kosciusko. However, as described by Bass, it is "a walk in the park" You can almost drive to the summit. Consequently, for some, there is another definition of the "Seven Summits" which replaces Kosciusko with the highest mountain in "Australasia" or "Oceana" , which is:
located in Irian Jaya Indonesia. This is the version of the Seven Summits that was first climbed by the Canadian, Pat Morrow, as described in his book, Beyond Everest: Quest for the Seven Summits. Those interested in the larger story, are also referred to Seven Summits: The Quest to Resach the Highest Point on Every Continent, edited by Steve Bell.
Bates, Robert, Burdsall, Richard, House, William, Houston, Charles, Petzolt, Paul & Streatfeild, Norman (1939). Five Miles High: The Story of an Attack on the Second Highest Mountain in the World by the Members of the First American Karakoram Expedition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company.
This is an account of the first American expedition to K2. The primary intent of the expedition was to perform a reconnaisance of the mountian in order to assess the feasibility of the various routes by which to attempt a summit bid.
This is the 1946 PhD thesis of Bob Bates, who was a member of the dramatic 1953 US expedition to K2 (see K2: The Savage Mountain by Houston & Bates). It is a discussion of the literature on mountains in English up to the time of writing. Unlike Neate's, Mountaineering and Its Literature, the Alpine Club Library Catalogue, or Climbing Mount Everest: The Bibliography, by Salkeld and Boyle, this is not an annotated bibliography. Rather, it is a discussion of how writers wrote about mountains, and how attitudes changed in the literature, over the years. This is not a well known book, but is well worth searching out by anyone interested in the literature.
Annotation to come.
This is a chronicle of the history of the exploration of the 14 8, 000 metre peaks in the Himalaya up to 1977, including early reconnaissance, attempts and first ascents. It also includes a comprehensive bibliography. See also Sale & Cleare's, Climbing the World's 14 Highest Mountains. While missing the outstanding bibliography of Sivalaya, it is much better illustrated.
This is a classic book covering the birth of geography. It is in 3 volumes, published in 1897, 1901 and 1906, respectively. One of the highlights of the set is that they include accounts of early travelers from China and the Arab worlds, as well as those from Europe. Volume 1, published in 1897, has the sub-tiitle: A History of Exploration and Geographical Science from the Conversion of the Roman Empire to A.D. 900, with an Account of the Achievements and Writings of the Christian, Arab and Chinese Travellers and Students. Volume 2, published in 1901, is sub-titled, A History of Exploration and Geographical Science from the Ninth to the Middle of the Thirtenth Century (c. A.D. 900-1260). Volume 3, published in 1906, is sub-titled, A History of Exploration and Geographical Science from the Middle of the Thirteenthto the Early Years of the Fifteenth Century (c. A.D. 1260-1420).
When I have looked, I have not been able to find a first edition of this work; however, an excellent facimile of the original edition was released by Martino Fine Books in 2000. (Martino Publishing, P.O. Box 373, Mansfield Centre, CT 06250). This is the edition that I have.
In English, the title can be translated as, Everest Challenge: The Diary of a Clandestine Journey. It is an account (in Danish) of Becker-Larsen’s unsanctioned 1951 trip to Everest, based on his diaries. He travelled with a number of Sherpa, including Ajeeba and Ang Daway, the first two engaged, as well as Ang Temba, Mingma, Ang Temba 2, Ang Tsering and Jigma Tshering. Starting in Darjeeling, they crossed over to Namche Bazar. Having headed towards the south side of Everest, he turned back to Namche, and from there went to the Nangpa La, and crossed via it into Tibet (the first European to do so). Inexperience and rock-fall prevented him getting far on his attempt to reach the North Col, and he soon retired from the mountain. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
Beckwith, Christopher (1987). The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
This is perhaps the most current scholarship on the early evolution of Central Asia, and the interactions among the various political and religious factions. Annotation to come.
This is a history/profile of Tibet by Sir Charles Bell, who was the British Political Officer in Tibet at the beginning of the 20th Century. He was also the official who, in 1920, Col. Howard-Bury had to sway in order to gain permission for the 1921 British Everest Reconnaissance Expedition, since it needed to approach the mountain through Tibet. Annotation to come
This is a really welcome book that has been drawn out of the Alpine Club archives. It is an annotated reconstruction of a slide show that Whymper did. It is of special interest since he was known as an engraver - which is how his books were mainly illustrated - rather than a photographer. Yet, many of his photos are excellent. My only wish is that the book was larger format, and the quality of the paper and printing higher, so as to do the photos more justice. See also Henry (2011) and Whymper (1880).
This is an account of Bernard's experiences in Tibet and Lhasa. He was only the third American to go there. Full annotation to come.
That Ranjit Singh used European mercenaries to train and lead his army is reasonably well known. What is less well known is how this practice dates back to the previous century, and was used by the Mughals as a strategy to stand up against the British, as well as each other. This book focuses on the use of foreign mercenaries in this period. Full annotation to come.
If climbing is a calling, then Barry Blanchard really listened. It is an exhausting book - not to read; rather, in the sense that the writing is sufficiently engaging that the intensity of many of the climbs transfers to the reader - as does the humour that punctuates the whole experience. At this point in history, my take is that it is pretty hard to write a climbing biography which does not fall into the "Rum Doodle" trap - something that Barry very much manages to avoid. This is not a narrative of climber as hero, or anti-hero; rather, as human (and a pretty honest one at that). That makes it all the stronger. I read the book in two sittings, and laughed out loud in every chapter, and still - despite knowing how many of the climbs turned out - learned something new from each, about the history, climbing, and my friend. This book won the 2015 Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature. Barry had better be careful: he may have found a second calling.
For my full review of this book from the 2015 Canadian Alpine Journal, click here.
This is a facsimile of a 1665 atlas currently in the Austrian National Library, Vienna. It has been augmented by significant front material. The simple comment is, this is one of the most affordable treasures that anyone interested in cartography could wish for. It is included in this collection because of my interest in cartography, rather than any specific relevance to Central Asia.
This is an account of the 1978 American Women's Himalayan Expedition to Annapurna I. This was the first American ascent of Annapurna I, and was a mixed success. On the one hand, two American women and two male Sherpa made the summit (the use of male Sherpa in an "all women" expedition is an interesting side story in itself, which is discussed in the book, as well as by Ortner). On the other hand, two women in the second summit team fell to their death. For more background and information, see Blum's autobiography, Breaking Trail.
This is the autobiography, up to 1987 at least, of Arlene Blum, a climber who is best known for her leading the 1978 American Women's Himalayan Expedition to Annapurna I. This volume is an excellent compliment to the account of that expedition.
Outside of the Annapurna expedition, neither Blum nor her background is particularly well known. Yet there is a fair bit to know, and it is both interesting and well presented in this account. The chapters in the book follow chronological order, but utilize an effective device where each chapter is prefaced by a flashback/meditation concerning her childhood.
Blum paid her dues , and prior to Annapurna had participated in numerous climbs in the Pacific Northwest of the US, as well as expeditions to Denali (the first all women's team to summit), Africa, Afghanistan, Nepal, the Pamirs, Trisul, and Everest. (For an other account of this 1976 US Bicentennial Everest Expedition, see Ridgeway's The Boldest Dream). Following Annapurna, Blum made her last mountaineering expedition, a successful women's ascent of Bhrigupanth. She then switched to trekking expeditions, and the last expedition described in the book is her 1981-82 trek that traversed the Himalaya from Bhutan to Ladakh - an outstanding initiative.
The book is engagingly written, and one cannot be struck by the strength of character that made the trips that she did, where she did, and when she did, all the while also pursuing a PhD in biochemistry, and research at some of the top academic institutions in the USA. But while clearly a highly motivated and capable "super achiever", Blum was clearly also an outsider. And this cannot just be explained away due to her being a woman. Her application for a spot on the US team participating on the 1974 International Climbing Camp in the Pamirs was rejected, while - according to her account - far less experienced women were accepted. Consequently, on the one hand, women were selected to participate on the US team, just not Blum. From her perspective, it was not about women per se, but which women and why.
In this, I think that it is a little too easy for Blum to suggest that the two women on the team were there just because they knew the men who had been selected, or because the more experienced women "weren't lady-like enough." After all, the two women in question were Molly Higgins, who in 1977 went on to be half of the team that put up the first all female ascent of the Nose in Yosemite, and Marty Hoey, the well known guide and climber who died on Everest's north side in 1982. Their later performance gives some credence that the confidence showed in them by their being selected may have been justified.
But her not being selected for the Pamirs expedition was not what upset Blum. She was in good company. There were a number of well-qualified women whose applications were rejected. Rather, it was how she was treated by most of the American team when she showed up in the Pamirs, having been invited to join another team. If we can judge by the way that some of the Americans treated the women who were on their team (for an account of Molly Higgins’ treatment, for example in Robert Craig's 1977, Storm & Sorrow in the High Pamirs.), one can well imagine that Blum's characterization of her treatment was accurate.
For sure Blum had a rough time of it. I assume that was true for any woman at the time who aspired to be taken seriously as a mountaineer. Nevertheless, I confess that given the talent and achievements that Blum demonstrates in this volume, there is a flavour of being a victim that doesn't sit quite right with me. On the one hand, the book suggests that she had the strength to overcome whatever obstacles stood in her way, and went on to some outstanding achievements that anyone would be proud of – male or female. On the other, despite the self-revelations and introspection that pervade the book, (especially the prefaces to the chapters), her remarkable accomplishments do not seem to have purged the hurts of the past – real and perceived. That is too bad, since hers is a record that requires no qualification, and is one to be justifiably proud of.
Ultimately, the book reveals two sides of Blum's character: the strong and determined scientist and climber, and an individual struggling with feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. In many ways, the struggle with the latter to achieve the former is one of the more interesting driving forces in the book.
The book is well worth the read. Despite the absence of colour photos, it is a wonderful example that with proper attention to design and production values, high quality black-and-white photos can be reproduced on the regular paper - something that is all too rare. As a counter to this compliment, this volume is yet another example of cheating the reader by not including an index. Why should we take the book seriously if the author and/or publisher demonstrate by this decision that they don't either? Inexcusable in this day and age.
This is essentially a series of prose portraits intended to characterise the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from the Russian perspective. Bocharov is a journalist, and in contrast to the book by Arnold, the style and approach is journalistic, without a lot of footnotes or references. This is the human side of the story, all the more remarkable in how it echoes a lot of the American journalists' writing during the Vietnam war. This is a quick read, but a worthwhile one. See also Margolis,
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is one of the top 10 books in the climbing literature that I have ever read. It is an anthology of writings by one of the greatest climbers of all time, the Italian mountaineer, Walter Bonatti. In other disciplines, such as music, there is the notion of a prodigy. If there is such a thing in climbing, Bonatti must be it. Here is someone who, in 1949 at 19 years of age, in his first season climbing (!), with his partner Barzahi, climbed both the northwest face of the Badile, and the Walker Spur on the north face of the Grande Jorasses (the latter which he repeated in 1963, with his partner Zappelli, in winter).
Bonatti was clearly as driven as he was talented, and it seems equally clear that this combination was not always looked on favourably by some of his (generally less talented) colleagues. He was part of the Italian expedition, led by Desio, that made the first ascent of K2 in 1954. Some would say one of the most critical parts. Yet, he came out of this expedition under a cloud of suspicion, ostracized my many of the Italian climbing community. The story of what happened (including the now demonstrable lies told by those who summitted, Lino Lacadelli and Achille Compagnoni), why, and the consequences are well told in this volume. With the help of a section by the editor/translator, Robert Marshall, the book presents quite conclusive evidence that Bonatti had been slandered. That it took until the mid-'80s to start to clear his name, and until the mid-90's for conclusive photographic proof to appear, verges on tragic. At least for a weaker man.
Bonatti's response to this was to prove himself by harder and harder climbs, frequently solo (epitomized by his 1965 swan song, his solo direttisssima of the north face ot the Matterhorn in winter!!), and by becoming a strong advocate of the ethics of "fair means", which for him means, climbing with the simplicity of tools as those employed by the great climbers of the '30s, such as Cassin.
Bonatti was a prolific writer, and this is a good thing, since he is a wonderful writer, often verging on poetry. This is not a one dimensional man; rather, someone who you want to spend time with. A number of his books have already appeared in English. This volume is a new translation, with introductions to each of the 27 pieces in the anthology by the translator/editor. It is mostly a compendium of his books On the Heights and The Great Days with the chapters added on the K2 case to bring that story to a close. However, certain chapters from the first two books have been omitted. Those who care to check the originals will be rewarded.
Robert Marshall has done a fantastic job in the pieces selected, the footnotes, and the introductions. (That the series editor, Jon Krakauer's name appears on the front and back cover, with a biography on the back, and Marshall's name appears nowhere on the cover is ironic, since it epitomizes the concessions to commercialism that Bonatti is so critical of in the book itself.)
Why a new translation? As stated by Bonatti in the introduction, as well as made clear by notes in the text, the earlier translations sometimes distorted the original intent of the original text, sometimes (in fact on one of the most critical points) giving exactly the opposite meaning as that intended. (Those interested in diving deeper into the deception around this climb are directed to Marshall's 2009 volume, K2: Lies and Treachery.)
This is a substantial volume of 445 pages, available only in paperback. As such, it is great value. But this is also unfortunate; however only from the perspective that I would love to have a hard cover version so that it will last longer.
This is an account of the first major Himalayan face climb, that helped herald a new era in Himalayan mountaineering. The climbers carried their own gear on the face, and Dougal Haston and Don Whillans made the summit. Chapter 17 is a first person account of the summit push by Dougal Haston, which also appears in his autobiography, In High Places. The book is extremely will illustrated with maps and photographs. It also includes 10 appendices giving details of the expedition, and an excellent index. The book has long been out of print, but is now available in an inexpensive reprint from: http://www.bonington.com/store/index.htm.
This is an account of the 1975 first ascent of the South West Face of Everest by a British team led by Bonington. This is one of the great face climbs of the era, and it saw four of the team reach the summit, including Dougal Haston and Doug Scott, who bivouacked at 28, 700 feet, due to a late arrival at the summit. It has great photos, and contributions from all of the members of the team. The book is extremely well illustrated with maps and photographs. It also includes 10 appendices giving details of the expedition, and an excellent index. The book has long been out of print, but is now available in an inexpensive reprint from: http://www.bonington.com/store/index.htm.
This is a collection of accounts by Bonington of 21 remarkable expeditions. This, the first editions (only) includes an important account of the now controversial 1957 Austrian expedition to Broad Peak. See Sale's Broad Peak and Diemberger's Summits and Secrets for other accounts of this expedition.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is a posthumous compilation of the journals of Anatoli Boukreev, collected, edited and introduced by Linda Wylie, who was his partner during the last part of his life. It begins with his experiences on Mount McKinley in the spring of 1990, through to his last expedition to Annapurna, in 1997. For more details, an as yet unpublished review which I have written can be found here.
This is "the other side" of the story of what happened on the south side of Everest in the spring of 1996. A guide for Scott Fischer's team, Boukreev took a lot of criticism from Krakauer in Into Thin Air. The Climb is very much a rebuttal of Krakauer's criticisms. It makes clear that there is more than one side to the story and thus provides motivation to read other accounts before coming to any conclusions. The book is well written and documented, although it lacks the fluency of Krakauer.
Boustead (see autobiography in next reference), wanted to climb Everest. While on leave, he visited Brigadeer Norton in the UK, after the latter had returned from leading the 1924 Everest expedition. Norton told him, "If you can pull offf an expdition to clear the Zemu Gap on the north-east shoulder of Kangchenjunga, I will personally back you for the next Everest expedition." With the help of Shebbeare, who lived in Sikkim, and who had been transport officer on both the 1922 and 1924 expeditions, Boustead set off to do so in 1926. This article is an account of his success, and consequently, was Boustead's ticket for inclusion on the 1933 Everest expedition. This would be the end of it, were it not for Bill Tilman. In 1936, before going to Nanda Devi, Tilman decided to repeat Boustead's traverse, from the Tongshyong Glacier, south-to-north (Tilman, 1946). He failed. But having compared what he encountered with what Boustead reported, Tilman concluded that Boustead could not have done the Zemu gap, especially since Boustead claimed to have started from the Tongshyong Glacier at 3 a.m., made the traverse, and been back for breakfast by 9 a.m. that same day. Tilman's conclusion was "... the easy, low col at the head of the Tongshyong obviously led into the wide ay at the head of th Talung [glacier]. It occured to me that in the thick weather which prevailed when the first alleged crossing had been made, this, and then the Zemu Gap, wwas the place which had been crossed." (Tilman, 1946, p. 58). Tilman returned in 1938, after having led the Everest Reconnaisance expedition, and did succeed in crossing the Zemu gap. However, this time his point of departure was Kellas's 1907 end point at the head of the Zemo Gacier, and crossed north-to-south, descending to the Tongshyong Glacier. Did Boustead actually climb the Zemu Gap? Of course it is impossible to say for sure. Perhaps conditions changed in the 10 years between Boustead's expedition and that of Tilman. Tilman certainly states that the south side of the gap had changed dramatically in the 2-year period between his 1936 and 1938 trips. So it is possible. And it is also possible that Tilman was simply wrong. Ultimately, the question cannot be answered, and we are just left with the fact that Boustead and Tilman were both remarkable men, and this was evident in almost every aspect of their lives. It should probably just be left at that.
This is the autobiography of Col. Sir Hugh Boustead, who was a member of the 1933 Everest expedition. The interesting aspect of this book is in what it tells us about the type of man who participated in these expeditions, rather than their climbing, per se. This is also true of the book by Greene (1974), who was also part of the team in 1933. There is so little about climbing in Boustead’s book, for example, that that it is hard to figure out when and where he developed the technique that enabled him to traverse the Zemu Gap on the north-east shoulder of Kangchenjung in 1926, which paved the way for his participation in the Everest expedition. Here is a man who competed in the Olympics in the modern pentathlon, was a competitive boxer, as a soldier served on the western front in WW I, then in Russia and Sudan, and spent the bulk of his post military career far from the mountains in North Africa and South Yemen as an administrator. Boustead is the epitome of the accomplished gentleman amateur of the golden age of British climbing. However, see the above reference, Boustead (1927).
There is not much to say other than this is one of the best send-ups of any type, not just of the climbing literature. It is written in a style that is a blend of Hunt's The Ascent of Everest and Tilman's The Ascent of Nanda Devi. It is the story of the ascent of the highest peak in the world, Rum Doodle, which like its smaller cousin, Everest, is in the deep Himalaya. In 2001 a new paperback edition was released by Pimlico. It is worth getting, even if you have the first edition, for the introduction that it contains by Bill Bryson. In it Bryson, a great fan of the book, provides a good background summary of Bowman and the genesis of the book.
This is a history of the early days of alpine climbing. See also Fleming's Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps. Annotation to come.
This is a climbing autobiography of Breashears, with a strong emphasis on his experiences in making the IMAX film on the south side of Everest in the spring of 1996. Breashears and his team played a significant role in the rescue of Beck Weathers, and this part of the book is especially interesting. Breashears was one of the more experienced mountaineers on Everest that spring and his comments are interesting in terms of trying to make some sense out of what actually happened. For another account of the IMAX expedition, see Coburn's, Everest: Mountain Without Mercy.
An extremely beautifully produced book with some outstanding photographs, some in 3-page panoramas. Full annotation to come.
This is a recent biography of one of Canada's first female mountaineers, Phyllis Munday. She was the first woman to climb Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. However, perhaps she is best known for her sighting of, then quest for, "Mystery Mountain", Mount Waddington.
This is book recounting 18 stories of "true adventure". Chapter I (pp. 3-16) is, "The Battle for Everest - Brigadier General Bruce's Great Story." This is a brief summary of the 1922 and 1924 expeditions, and is of interest in terms of how the expeditions were popularly portrayed at the time of its writing. Salkeld & Boyle (1993) mistakenly attribute the chapter as being written by Bruce ("... opening chapter: General Bruce on the Battle for Everest 1921-1933"). Of course, being published in 1929, the 1933 expedition is not discussed.
Roberts was a serious player for the British, having won the Victoria Cross during the Sepoy Mutiny, and then leading the British forces in Kabul in the second Anglo-Afghan war. A good counterpoint to this biography are the diaries of MacGregor, edited by Trousdale.
This is a manual for the Enfield Pattern 53 rifle musket which played such an important role in triggering the Sepoy Mutiny.
As the title suggests, this is an account of Bruce's time in the Himalaya. Annotation to come.
This is the official account of the second expedition to Everest, and the first real assault. It has some wonderful photographs. Given how little experience there was at the time, one of the most interesting parts of the book is the chapter by Somervell on acclimatization and climbing at altitude without oxygen.
This is an autobiography of Brig. Gen. Charles Bruce, who was one of the early pioneers of climbing in the Himalaya and Karakoram. It includes accounts of his expedition with Conway to the Karakoram, to Nanga Parbat with Mummery, and Everest in 1922 (on which expedition he was leader). It also covers a range of other travels and experiences. Bruce was larger than life, in many ways.
This is a brief (48 page) booklet giving the history of New Zealand's involvement with Everest, up to 1953. It was written by a member of Shipton’s 1935 reconnaissance expedition (Shipton, 1936).
Annotation to come.
This is a recent edition of Buhl's 1954 autobiography. Despite the title, only a relatively short section of the book deals with Buhl's classic solo summiting of Nanga Parbat in 1953. For me, the book was a tough read. Essentially, it is a diary of what seems to be almost every climb that he made since he was a boy. High on detail and comprehensiveness, not in quality of writing or analysis. For the "conclusion" of this book, the interested reader is referred to Sale's Broad Peak and Diemberger's Summits and Secrets, which gives an account of Buhl's last expedition to Broad Peak and subsequent death on Chogolisa. Also, note that a new biography of Buhl is now available by Messner& Hofler which includes excerpts from his Broad Peak report. For the "official" account of the 1953 Nanga Parbat expedition, see Herrligkoffer's Nanga Parbat (The Killer Mountain). But read Buhl's account and Messner's comments to understand the context and the tensions that arose during and after the climb.
This is a new edition (in German) of Buhl's classic Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage. What is of particular interest in this edition is the inclusion of transcriptions Buhl's diaries from his climbs on Broad Peak and Chogolisa, which occured after the original edition of the book was published. For more on these climbs, and some background context, see my essay on the Broad Peak expedition, as well as my review of Sale's recent book, Broad Peak.
Kriemhild Buhl was the eldest of Buhl's three daughters. She was six years old when Buhl was killed on Chogolisa. This is a book about Buhl and his family, but also by someone who only knew the man directly as a young child. Most of the information about Buhl is obviously second hand. Much from her mother. However, that to do with the Broad Peak/Chogolisa expediton is from Diemberger, and therefore needs to be read and understood as such. While Diemberger's version of events is perhaps the best known, due to the prolific nature of his writing and speaking, it is not the only one, and - based on my research - is the least reliable and the least supported by the documented evidence. Book is in German only.
This is an account of the large and controversial first Canadian expedition to Everest in 1982. This was very large, perhaps bloated, very well funded expedition that was made up of a lot of enthusiastic but not very compatible climbers. It was plagued with problems from the start, having had three different leaders in its life. As an example of the interpersonal problems plaguing the effort, the person who initiated the expedition, and got the permit, Roger Marshall, was first removed as leader, and then later, kicked off of the climb. The expedition was also plagued with troubles on the mountain. Three Sherpa, Ang Tsultim, Dawa Dorje and Pasang Sona, were killed in an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall. Then, almost immediately after their funerals, one of the climbers, Blair Griffiths, was also killed in the icefall. This, along with the other tensions and dissension in the team, caused a number of the climbers to then quit the expedition.
The expedition had originally ambitiously planned to do the first ascent via the South Pillar route. However, they were scooped in 1980, by the Poles Czok and Kukuczka. An variation of this route then became the objective. However, due to delays resulting from the weather and other problems, the team eventually resorted to the conventional (and easier) South Col route, and eventually succeeded in getting the first two Canadians, Laurie Skreeslet and Pat Morrow, on the summit, with the aid of oxygen.
Burgess was perhaps the most experienced climber on the expedition. At least, that is what he implies in the book. He is opinionated, and tells his view of the climb, rather than any attempt at objectivity. That would be fine, and in many cases, preferred, except that I was not left with a strong impression that his analysis was especially insightful or trustworthy. Self serving is one of the descriptions that comes to mind.
The book reads well, which is likely the work of Palmer, a professional writer who was not on the expedition, and quite well illustrated with a rather large number of colour photographs.
For another account of this expedition, see also Patterson's, Canadians on Everest.
Buxton, William (2001). Review: Above the Clouds: The Diaries of a High-Altitude Mountaineer, by Anatoli Boukreev. Unpublished Manuscript.
This is an unpublished review of a book put together by Lynda Wylie based on papers that she collected and edited from Anatoli Boukreev, Above the Clouds. Click on the title to access document.
Buxton, W. (2003). Review: Dougal Haston: The Philosophy of Risk, by Jeff Connor. Canadian Alpine Journal, 86, 167-168.
This is a review of Connor's biography of Dougal Haston that I wrote for the Canadian Alpine Journal. Click on the title to access document.
Buxton, William (2004). Review: Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow, by Maria Coffey. Canadian Alpine Journal, 87, p. 148..
This is a review of Coffey's book, Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow, written for the Canadian Alpine Journal. Click on the title to access document.
Buxton, William (2005). Broad Peak 1st Ascent: An Interview with Qader Saeed. Video: 45:50.
In 1957, a team of four Austrians: Marcus Schmuck, Hermann Buhl, Fritz Wintersteller and Kurt Diemberger made an ascent of Broad Peak (8,047m). This climb was remarkable for a number of reasons, mostly to do with style:
This video is a companion to an essay that I wrote on the history of this climb (See the next listing in this bibliography.)
Click on the title to view the video.
Buxton, William (2006). Broad Peak and the 1957 Austrian Karakoram Expedition. Canadian Alpine Journal, 89, 176-183.
This is a review of the literature and history of the first ascent of Broad Peak in 1957 by a four person Austrian team led by Marcus Schmuck. It is an attempt to sort out some of the controversy around this climb and give some of the relevant background. The full text can be found by clicking on the title of the essay, above, as can Diemberger's comments and my reply to them.
Click on the title to access document.
See also the following video interview that I did with the expedition's liasion officer, Qader Saeed: Buxton, William (2005). Broad Peak 1st Ascent: An Interview with Qader Saeed. Video: 45:50.
This is a reader's guide-book to the Everest literature (from the beginning, up to when it was first summited). Think of it as being analagous to a guide book that you would use for a crag. The guide has four main parts. First, there is a bibliography which covers books (and only a few articles) by those with a direct connection with the mountain. Second, there are annotations for each of the items listed in the bibliography, making it more than just a list. Theses are often rather subjective, but hopefully of value or interest nevertheless. Third, as a navigational aid, I have created a table summarizing the literature by expedition and year, loosely following the format introduced by Neate in Mountaineering and Its Literature. Finally, all of this is prefaced by a series of short introductory essays that cover key periods and topics concerning the mountain. These contain extensive links to the books in the bibliography where you can find more information. You can access this document by clicking on its title, above. Comments, corrections and additions are welcomed.
Click on the title to access document.
Buxton, William. (2007). Review: Mallory Myths and Mysteries, by Mike Parsons and Mary Rose. Canadian Alpine Journal, 90, 164.
This is a review of a small booklet by Parsons and Rose (2006). In it they describe a project where they reproduced the clothes worn by Mallory in 1924, including the fibres and materials, and tested them low on Everest.
Click on the title to access the review.
Buxton, William. (2015). Review: The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains. Canadian Alpine Journal, 98, 139.
This is a review from the 2015 edition of the Canadian Alpine Journal reviewing Barry Blanchard's first book - a book that went on to win the 2015 Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature.
Click on the title to access the review.
This is a beautifully produced and illustrated account of the travels of Janet Elliott Wulsin and her husband Frederick Wulsin. Includes a number of photographs taken by them. More extensive annotation to come.
This is an extremely well produced book. Given that it was produced in association with the Royal Geographical Society, this should be no surprise. It is divided into chapters on The Formation of the Mountains, The Coming of Man, The Pathfinders, the Explorers, The Climbers and The Scientists. In many ways, better than any other book, this volume encapsulates in a microcosm my library. If you are interested in the broader issues of the region, i.e., history, geology, religions, exploration, climbing, etc., and you only want a few key books, then this should be one of them. The maps, photos, illustrations and timeline, alone, make it worthwhile. It is not expensive, but is also not well known. So, you can afford it, and it is worth searching out.
This is an analysis of the early initiatives by the British East India Company to establish trade with Tibet. The focus is on the expeditions of George Bogle, in 1774-5 and Samuel Turner, in 1783-4. These expeditions are also covered in Woodcock, but this edition is focussed mainly on the issues of trade. This book is a published version of Cammann's PhD thesis. Hence, as would be expected, the scholarship is immaculate, but it is sometimes hard to keep a flow in reading, due the the large number (of extremely informative) footnotes. Two things stand out in this book. First, the introduction is the best concise but informative account of the early history of Tibet that I have read. Second, it has a wonderfully annotated bibliography which is as interesting to read as the book itself. This is a relatively short book. If you are only going to read one book on early Tibet, up to and including the travels of Bogle and Turner, this is probably it.
Candler was the correspondent for the Daily Mail during the Younghusband "expedition" to Lhasa in 1903-4. Except for a period where he was wounded, he was an eyewitness to what happened, and wrote the bulk of the book while in Tibet. Definitely worth reading for anyone interested in this piece of history.
See also Younghusband's India and Tibet and Fleming's Bayonets to Lhasa for more information. As well, look at the parallel account, The Opening of Tibet, by Perceval Landon, the correspondent for the Times.
A collection of essays reassessing Hastings' impeachment, prosecuted by Edmund Burke, two hundred years after the fact, with an emphasis on its impact/relevance to the nature of British imperialism. See also: Marshall, P.J. (1965). The Impeachment of Warren Hastings. Annotation to come.
This is a small book, which is mainly made up Irvine’s diaries of his 1923 expedition to Spitzbergen (only 7 pages) and Everest in 1924. There are also exerts from some of Irvine’s letters from this period. The final entry is June 5th. (O’Dell last saw Mallory and Irvine on June 8th.). The book also includes other material, including a brief biography of Irvine (written by his brother), a fairly superficial chapter by Frank Solari on the oxygen equipment used in 1922 and 1924, and a chapter on the “Irvine Travel Trust” at Oxford. While the diary entries are interesting, those interested in Irvine are generally far better directed to Summers’ biography, Fearless on Everest: The Quest for Sandy Irvine, published in 2000. Carr does make one point of particular interest in this volume. He emphasizes that – despite the prevailing tendency to do so, it is incorrect and unfair to assume that if Mallory and Irvine died of a fall, that it was the less experience Irvine who fell, pulling Mallory to his death. This is germane, given the state in which Mallory’s body was found.
This is far more the autobiography of a mountaineer than a mountaineering biography. That is, mountaineering is just one of the backdrops against which the story unfolds. The only time where the book drops into a blow-by-blow climb description is in the final section, which describes an audacious (and for one participant, Brendan Murphy, fatal) ascent of the North Face of Changabang. (See Mick Fowler's On Thin Ice for another account of this expedition.) Cave's story is unlikely and therefore interesting on many levels, and all the more engaging given the high quality and fluidity of his writing. He was born into a mining family in a mining town, and went straight to work in the mines after finishing school, first on the surface, then underground. Perhaps because it is less familiar to me than climbing (although I have been right to the working face of the deepest coal mine in Europe, in Zolder, Belgium), his description of the mining life, in the pit, at the pub, and at home, is fascinating. Doubly so given his ability to capture the way of speaking, both in form and content. From this beginning, Cave started both climbing and going to school part-time. Given a bit of a boost by a year long strike (thanks to Margaret Thatch er), he left mining, and ended up with a PhD in socio-linguistics (specializing in the language and stories of the mining community in which he grew up), his mountain guide's certification, and fifteen years of Himalayan climbing at the highest standard. This volume is an extremely readable and engaging telling of how he got from here to there. It is well worth the read, and my only strong complaint is that - yet again - we have a book that has no respect for its own value or contents in that it has no index.
This is a facsimile edition of an extremely rare volume released in 1821 by Imprimerie De J.J. Luc Sestié, of Geneva. Using hand-coloured lithographs, the original was the first illustrated traveler’s guide for the road from Geneva to Chamonix. The quality of the reproductions in this modern edition are outstanding, and to preserve the character of the original, the accompanying text - which augments the original French with an accompanying English translation - is set in the original Modern 1820 font. This is a lovely book which would be a welcome addition to anyone interested in the early days of climbing and travelling in the Alpes
Annotation to come.
This is the original "standard text" on ice climbing. It provides a really good historical summary of the history of climbing on ice, a deep tutorial on "French" technique, followed by an equally detailed introduction to (then) emerging "new" front pointing techniques. Besides consolodating all of this into a single reference book, he also takes a strong "everything is best for something and worst for something else" approach in his argument that the complete ice climber should have a solid grounding in both techniques.
This is not so much a climbing book, as an autobiographic reflection by the multi-faceted climber, surfer, reluctant entrepreneur, innovator, and ethicist (my description), Yvon Chouinard. As someone who sees himself as a designer, I see this book as one of the best books on design that I have read. The reason is that - drawing on examples largely emerging from climbing and the outdoors - he not only elevates the discourse of design from products to the design of one's life, and bridges the gap between the two, i.e., how one relates to the other, and how one's ethics can help reconcile the inherent conflicts that lie within. As simple example: innovations in technical gear and clothing that resulted in Black Diamond and Patagonia, grew out of a love of the outdoors. But, by the same token, in so doing, opened up the outdoors to more and more people, thereby having potentially (and arguably actually) significant negative impact on that very thing. So, how does one try to resolve the conflict within the realities of the world of business today? In this book are some of the most reasoned and interesting musings over such issues - with a great biography tossed in.
Note: A new edition of this book came out in 2016 which includes additional material covering the 10 year gap since the original was released.
The thesis of this book is that the concurrent development of innovations in weapons and ships were the key foundations on which Europeans emerged as dominant, and were able to establish empires during the period from 1400-1700.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come. See also Littledale's, A Journey Across Tibet From North to South and West to Ladak as well as the autobiography of their sirdar on this trip, Servant of Sahibs.
This is a book on the work of one of the great mountain photographers, one who was closely linked with the Duke of Abruzzi. The first half is an essay on the work of Sella, and the second half is an wonderful selection of excellent reproductions of his work. The book is large format, so the images are at a scale that shows them to advantage. See also Summit: Vittorio Sella Mountaineer and Photographer the Years 1879 - 1909, PAESAGGI VERTICALI: La fotografia di Vittorio Sella 1879-1943, and Alpinismo Italiano in Karakorum / Italian Mountaineering in the Karakoram.
This is a collection of stories of true life adventures by a number of authors. Of interest here is the essay, "Caught in an Everest Blizzard, " by J.L. Longland, who was a member of the 1933 British Everest expedition.
This is a near coffee table scale book which is a companion volume to the 1996 IMAX Everest Expedition. As one would expect from a National Geographic book, the photographs, and especially the maps, are spectacular. The book goes into more detail on the expedition than the complementary account in the book by Breashears, including the trek in, the climb, the challenge of making the film, and the events around the storm.
An account of Coffey's relationship with Joe Tasker, and her experience after his death on Everest. Annotation to come.
For my review of this book written for the Canadian Alpine Journal, click here.
This is a well researched and written book which explores the impact of climbing on their family. Through interviews, Coffey tries to probe how climbers reconcile climbing - with its inherent risks - with family, especially in the case where one doesn't come home. She also interviewed a number of family members of climbers (living and dead) in order to gain some insight into how they dealt with the time alone, the risk, and - when it was the case (as it was with Coffey, herself) - the consequences of them not coming home. The topic, which could easilly become pretty bleak or judgmental, is pursued in a balanced way. Worth reading.
This is a soft-cover reprint, with some supplemental material, of Collie's 1902 classic, Climbing on the Himalas ad Other Mountain Ranges, published by David Douglas of Edinburgh. The book is especially important for its account of their 1895 Nanga Parbat expedition, the first attempt on the mountain. It also includes accounts of experiences in the Alpes, Canadian Rockies, etc. Well worth getting while you save up for the original.
This is an account based on diaries, interviews and recent information. It is part of the Legends and Lore Series. Full annotation to come.
For my review of this book written for the Canadian Alpine Journal, click here.
This is a biography of the Scottish climber Dougal Haston, who was one of the best known climbers of the late '60s and early '70s. After establishing his early reputation as a rock climber in Scotland, Haston first became well known outside of the climbing community through his participation in the 1966 first ascent of the direct route up the north face of the Eiger, (Gillman & Haston, Eiger Direct). Haston went on to participate in two of the great pioneering face climbs, led by Chris Bonington, which cranked Himalayan climbing up a serious notch. The first was the 1970 ascent of the south face of Annapurna, and the second the 1975 ascent of the south west face of Everest. Haston was part of the first summit team on both, with Don Whillans on Annapurna, and Doug Scott on Everest. (See Bonington's Everest the Hard Way, for an account of the Everest climb.) On Everest, Scott and Haston established a record, of sorts: the highest bivouac in history, having spent the night in the open on the South Summit, at 28, 500 feet. He then went on the same year, 1975, and did the first ascent of the south west face of Mount McKinley.
The book is a biography of the man, and not a history of his collective climbs. Therefore, those interested in a detailed description of them must go to the actual expedition accounts. The good news is that there are excellent ones available for the major climbs. The book is good on chronology but lacking in insight. From the perspective of production value, it has relatively few photos and illustrations. What is more frustrating and inexcusable in this day and age is the lack of an index. For Haston's autobiography, see In High Places. For another opinion of this book, and take on Haston, see Larry Ware's insightful and considered review on page 450 of the 2004 American Alpine Journal 46(78).
This is an account of Conway's pioneering exploration of the Karakoram region in 1894. His travels took them to the Hispar Pass, along the Biafo and Baltero Glaciers, K2, Skardu, etc., climbing a number of peaks along the route. Other than Godwin-Austen (1860-61) and Younghusband (1887), this region was essentially unexplored by Europeans. Full annotation to come.
See also: Conway, Sir W. Martin, (1891). "One Thousand Miles Through the Alps." In Wilson, Edward, et. al. (1897). The Out of Door Library: Mountain Climbing. Charles Scribner's Son
Cowles, Elizabeth S. (1953). North to Everest. In Marcel Kurz (Ed.). The Mountain World 1953: Everest 1952. NY. Harper & Bros., 35-38.
This is an account of the 1950 Anglo-American expedition, led by Oscar Houston, into Nepal. The party included Charles Houston, William Tilman, Anderson Bakewell, as well as Cowles. Tilman and C. Houston spent a day reconnoitering the south side of Everest. This was the first time that Europeans had approached this close from the south. See also Tilman (1952).
This is a new release of the Ward's classic book:
Ward, Frank Kindom (1926). Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges. London, Edward Arnold & Co.
Ward's original text remains, augmented by new material including essays relating to the original work, numerous photographs of the region and showing many of the plants described in context, and annotations. For those interested in the exploration and rich history of the Tsangpo, see also Allen's, A Mountain in Tibet, McRae's, The Siege of Shangri-La, Stewart's, Spying for the Raj, Swinson's, Beyond the Frontiers, and Waller's, The Pundits, among others.
This is an account of the events of the 1974 International Climbing camp in the Pamirs. For another account, see Blum's Breaking Trail. Annotation to come. My copy is the 1980 revised edition published by Simon and Schuster, NY.
This is an autobiography of the climber, poet, mystic Aleister Crowley. Crawley was a member of the first (1902) British expedition to K2 (which Crowley refers to as Chogo Ri). This was also only the second serious attempt on an 8,000 metre peak. Leadership of this expedition was a little complicated due to the original leader, Oscar Eckenstein, being detained. (The reason for this is unclear. Crowley believed that it was as a consequence of his fall-out with Conway during his 1892 expedition to the Baltaro area. However, while Conway says little about Eckenstein's departure in 1892, in Himalayan Wanderer, p. 97, Bruce states that it was due to the inabiliity to handle the local food.) While Eckenstein was sorting out the problem (which required a meeting with Curzon), Crowley assumed leadership, and continued on - with Eckenstein rejoined the expedition once matters were sorted out with Curzon. The other members of the expedition were the Austrian climbers Heinrich Pfannl and Victor Wessely, the Swiss, Jules Jacot-Guillarmond, and Guy Knowles, an Englishman. Besides Eckenstein and Crowley, only the Austrians Pfannel and Wessely had any apparent climbing experience of note. Knowles may well only have been included due to the financial resources that he provided. Nevertheless, the expedition made some significant progress, with Crowley reaching 6,525 metres (what I believe was an altitude record at the time), before retreating. Finally, one other "distinguishing" aspect of this expedition is that it may be the first (and only) instance of one climber (Crowley) pulling a revolver on another expedition member (Knowles).
Crowley's account of the expedition are included in Chapter 34 (starting on page 278) of this book, which is an edited compendium, and the first appearance of all intended six volumes of the work. Prior, only the first two pave previously appeared in print (and did so during Crowley's lifetime). These appeared in 1929, published by The Mandrake Press, London, under the title, The Spirit of Solitude An autobiography Subsequently re-Antichristened The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. As I understand it (these two volumes are rare and very expensive, and have not personally seen them up to now), in editing this collected volume, the first two volumes have been somewhat abridged, and that the accounts of Crowley's travels and mountaineering, including photographs, have suffered thereby. Hence, the motivated reader may well seek out the original editions for the full account.
Finally, for a biography of Crowley, see Kaczynski's 2000 volume, Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley.
This is a biography of the Scottish climber Robin Smith who was killed in 1962 at age 23 when he fell in the Pamirs. His climbing partner, Wilfrid Noyce, was also killed in the fall. Smith showed early brilliance as a rock climber. He also was part of a generation of anti-establishment Scotish climbers of the time, which also included Dougal Haston, with whom he did a number of climbs. This is a long biography for someone who died so young, and despite its length, I still had no strong sense of the man when I had finished reading it. Cruickshank, his biographer, was a boyhood friend and early climbing partner, and he pulled any punches that were there, and the result was more a tribute to Smith than a biography. In many ways, Cruickshank is almost as much an editor as an author, in that a considerable amount of the book is taken up by accounts of others quoted verbatim. Not a bad thing, and sometimes a relief. But overall, this was a book that I had to force myself to finish.
This is a rich anthology of hard to find (and in some cases, unpublished) articles on the exploration of this region of Central Asia. It has excellent contemporary illustrations, and includes a balance of articles from both the British and Russian perspectives, taken from the archives of the RGS. Authors represented in the anthology include: Julius Jackson, J.C. Prichard, Arminius Vambéry, G.C. Napier, Henry Rowlinson, and C.E. Stewart, among others.
This is an account of the 1986 season on K2, which nine expeditions on the mountain, 27 people summiting, but also 13 deaths. This is material covered more briefly in Krakauer's essay, A Bad Summer on K2, found in his book Eiger Dreams. It is also includes another perspective on the expedition of Kurt Diemberger and Julie Tullis, described in Diemberger's book, The Endless Knot, which is included in The Kurt Diemberger Omnibus. Curran was at the mountain the whole summer, so knew the people, the context, and played an active role in some of the events that he describes.
This is the classic book on the climbing history of K2. This is a well researched book, and the quality of writing matches the quality of this research. It provides a wonderful summary of the history of not only K2, but also the opening up of the Karakoram in general. It is not on the same scale as Unsworth's book on Everest, but nevertheless is a wonderful companion. The events of 1986 are well covered, as Curran was at the mountain at the time (but one should also read Diemberger's The Endless Knot for both another perspective and even more detail.) The only unfortunate aspect of this book is the title, whose sensationalism belies the true nature of the volume. But then, the title derives from Houston & Bates's book, so it is more than understandable.
There is a pocket-book release of this book by Coronet, but it lacks a number of the black and white photos and has none of the wonderful colour photos of the original hard-cover edition. Definitely worth searching out the hard cover edition.
This is a biography of Chris Bonington. It was rereleased as a pocketbook in 2000 by Robinson, in London, which is the edition that I have. Annotation to come.
This is an excellent overview of the history of trade, and in of particular interest to me, of trade between the orient and Britain.
This highly illustrated book documents the extensive explorations and travels of the American Sydam Cutting in Central Asia between 1925 and 1939. Annotation to come.
This is the most recent, and thorough account of the first Anglo-Afghan war. It both draws on primary sources not prevously used, as well as relating the history covered to recent events in Afghanistan. The author is clearly one who believes that we can, in fact, learn from history - yet in this case, did not.
The interested reader should also see the Journals of Lady Sale (I have the 1969 edition edited by Patrick Macrory), Eyre's, The Military Operations at Cabul: The Retreat and Destruction of the British Army, 1842, Kaye's History of the War in Afghanistan , and Fortescue's volume of related maps.
David-Neel was an upper class French woman who became fascinated with Tibet and Buddhist teachings. She became fluent in Tibetan, lived as a hermit, adopted a Tibetan son, and with him traveled in disguise, reaching Lhasa. A remarkable woman.
The most recent of a string of Mallory biographies. Annotation to come. See also, in chronological order, the biographies by Pye (1927), Styles (1967), Robertson (1969), Holzel & Salkeld (1986), Green (1990), Gillman & Gillman (2000) , Salkeld (2000), and Green (2005).
This is a biography of of the Russian painter, traveler and writer Nicholas Roerich. Besides his travels and paintings of the Himalaya, Roerich was perhaps best known as the set designer for Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The book is well illustrated with Roerich's paintings and photographs of his travels. However, do not read it expecting a deep or detailed biography. His first trip to Paris in 1900 (at the height of the fin de siecle influential explosion in the arts and culture), and which lasted a year, is dealt with in 1 1/2 pages. Nevertheless (or perhaps because of this) it is perhaps the best introduction to his life and work that I have so far read . See also Paelian (1974) and Roerich (1929). For those interested in Roerich, there is an excellent museum in NYC dedicated to his work. The museum's web site includes reproductions of a large number of his paintings, biographical information, as well as selected writings.
Earl Denman was a Canadian who migrated to Africa. He was somewhat of an eccentric loner, who took a fancy to climbing mountains barefoot, with a minimum of fuss and company (largely due to his equally minimal means). He did some minor climbs in Africa, and then decided that he should climb Everest. In order to prepare, he set himself the goal of climbing the eight main peaks in the Virunga Mountains, on the border of the Congo and Uganda. This he did, against fairly strong odds, and from this success, he gained the confidence to follow through on his plans for Everest.
With minimal equipment, much of which he had made himself, hardly any funds, and no permit to enter Tibet, in 1947 he made his way to Darjeeling. There he was able to recruit Tenzing and another Sherpa, Ang Dawa, to make an illicit trip through Tibet to Everest. Again, despite serious odds, they not only made it to Rongbuk, but nearly onto the North Col. There the reality of their situation, their equipment and the weather, became clear, and they withdrew. Such is the story recounted in this volume.
I have to admit that I approached this book not wanting to like it. After all, how could anyone climbing with Tenzing think of themselves as going "Alone to Everest." Were it not for Tenzing and Ang Dawa, for example, he would never have gotten near the mountain, much less into Tibet. However, my prejudices were disarmed almost as soon as I began reading. It took him all of the first sentence to address the title of the book. And as I read on, I found a man who was extremely interesting and intelligent. Denman was a man of conviction, determination, and extremely strong character. And, compared to almost anyone that I have read, he treated his companions (natives in Africa, and Sherpa in Tibet) as peers, and with huge respect and sensitivity.
Denman was not a fanatic, like Maurice Wilson. While perhaps equally obsessive, he knew when to turn around. And in this book I found someone that I ended up respecting greatly, and would like to have known. And I am not alone, in that Tenzing clearly felt the same way. Despite believing the expedition hopeless, he wrote warmly about it in his autobiography, Tiger of the Snow.
Denman's writing is engaging and periodically wise. Perhaps this says more about me than him, but the following examples struck me as worth noting:
This book is certainly worth reading for anyone who is interested in the future and spirit of mountaineering and exploration. I will end this review in the most suitable way that I can, with Denman's own ending to his book, which is as timely now as when it was written. From my bias, it should be required reading by anyone who thinks about "conquering" mountains:
There has been a shattering of idealism, but from the broken remnants some good may yet be resurrected. When the warriors have finished reshaping the boundaries of our world, then there will be freedom to come and go as we wish: when the perverters have finished with sex, and have left us with its sweetness, then there will be love: when the conquerors have come down from the mountains, then we shall be able to go to them again, simply and quietly.
Annotation to come.
Dent was the President of the Alpine Club in 1887. At the end of this book, he became what may be the first person to discuss the feasibility of actually ascending to the summit of Everest. He believed that it could be done.
The earliest European visitors to Tibet were Jesuit priests, the first of whom were the Portuguese Fathers Andrada and Marques in 1624. This book is an edited first person account of another early Jesuit visitor, Father Desideri, who traveled into Tibet via Delhi, Kashmir, and Ladakh between 1712-1727, and was in Lhasa between 1716-1721. Full annotation to come.
This is the official account of the controversial 1954 first ascent of K2 by the Italian expedition led by Desio. The intentional distortions of the expedition in this account, especially concerning the role of Bonatti are shameful, and a testament to Desio's arrogance and lack of honour. For the other side of the story, see Bonatti's, The Mountains of My Life. See also Ata-Ullah's autobiography and Lacedelli's recent account. Perhaps most significantly , see Marshall's 2009 volume, K2: Lies and Treachery.
This is an account of the second ( 1962) Indian Everest expedition to Everest. While the expedition did get above the South Col, they were not successful in summiting. One of the things that makes this expedition of particular interest to me, at least, is that it was the last expedition in which Ang Tharkay took an active role in mountaineering. It also represents the highest that he ever got on his six expeditons to the mountain - reaching the South Col - and doing so at age 54.
Dickenson is a film-maker who was shooting a film for Channel 4 on the north side of Everest in the spring of 1996, and who ended up summiting. This is his account, and the only one that I am aware of the events of that season from the north side. It is interesting to contrast his view of the treatment of the three Indian climbers who died on the face, with that expressed by Simpson in Dark Shadows Falling. One wonders how much Dickinson's inexperience colours his opinion. This book was reissued in paperback in 1998 by Arrow Books of London.
Annotation to come. Article is in two parts. The first deals with Broad Peak and Chogolisa (pp 126-141). The second is an epilogue "In memoriam Hermann Buhl", (pp142-150).
This is a collection of 3 previously published books that first appeared between 1970 and 1991. They include Summits and Secrets, The Endless Knot, and Spirits of the Air. The first of these is an account of a number of interesting ascents, including the north face of the Eiger, and the first ascents of Broad Peak and Dhaulagiri. The account of the ascent of Broad Peak is especially interesting to those who have read Buhl's book and want to read a first-hand account of what happened to him. (However, a very different account of this expedition can be found in Richard Sale's 2004 book, Broad Peak, is essential reading for anyone who is interested in this expedition.) The Endless Knot is an account of Diemberger's obsession with K2, and a first hand account of his ascent of the mountain with Julie Tullis in the deadly 1986 season (see also Curran's K2, Triumph and Tragedy for another account of the 1986 season on K2.).
This is an account of the two Swiss attempts on Everest from the south side in 1952. For another account of these expeditions, see also Tenzing's autobiography, Tiger of the Snow. Also, see the companion volume, Everest: The Swiss Expeditions in Photographs, compiled by Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, and the volume of photographs by .
This is a new biography of Tenzing. See also Tenzing's autobiographies with Ullman, Tiger of the Snow, and with Barnes, After Everest. See also the earlier biography by Malartic, Tenzing of Everest, his son Jamling's book, Touching My Father's Soul, and grandson Tashi Tenzing's Tenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest. Annotation to come.
This is an account of the 1933 first flight over Everest, written by the son of one of the pilots, Clydesdale (Clydesdale & McIntyre, 1936). It includes previously unpublished photographs and takes advantage of new material. For aerial photos of Everest from this expedition, however, my view is that the 1936 book by Clydesdale & McIntyre is the better. See also Etherton (1934) and Fellowes, et. al (1933).
Essays on climbers active in Canada, including Charles Fay, Vai Fynn, Albert MacCarthy, Conrad Kain, Ed Feuz, Phyllis Munday, Fred Beckey, Hans Gmoser, Brian Greenwood, andDick Cuthbert. See also Chic Scotts more current encyclopedic, Pushing the Limits. See also Bridge's, Phyllis Munday: Mountaineer and Beckey's, Range of Glaciers.
This is a relatively recent account of the travels of Ibn Battuta, who has often been referred to as the Arab Marco Polo. Actually, Battuta's travels were far more extensive than those of Marco Polo. This book, however, is not just a recounting of Battuta's story. Rather, it provides a solid discussion of the historical context, such as the development of maritime trade along what might be called the Maritime Silk Road. This book is well researched and the notes and bibliograpy are excellent. Full review to come.
This is an account of a 1956 all-women's expedition to the Kulu-Spiti-Lahul area of the North-West Himalaya. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is an account of a trek that the author and a companion, a Dr. Bishop, made in 1923 from Kalimpong, through Sikkim and Tibet to Phari Dzong. They climbed no mountains, pioneered no routes, and followed the same basic path that was used by thousands during the Younghusband expedition in 1903-4. From the perspective of exploration or adventure, this is simply not an important book, and these are not historically important people. And yet, it is one of the best travel books that I have ever had the pleasure to read. Through his power of description and command of the written language, Easton verges on being a poet. Reading this book is akin to sitting down with a brandy in a club and having the best story teller that you know entertain you with a tale of their adventure.
In the process, one gets a wonderful perspective of how the English in India at that time perceived the Younghusband expedition. Through the descriptions and photos, one also gets a clearer view of this part of the route which was followed by all of the British Everest expeditions that went to the North side of the mountain. For the sense of place and time that it presents, and for the pure aesthetic of the telling, this book is very highly recommended.
As a footnote, Easton gives an account of his meeting with McGovern, who he met in Tibet when the latter was returning from Lhasa.
This is a recent academic study of the mapping of British India. Complementary to the shorter, more popularized history in Keay's, The Great Arc. Full annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is a well written, researched and very well illustrated short book on the history of exploration and mountaineering of central Vancouver Island. The focus is on six main mountains, Elkhorn, Mt. Colonel Foster, Golden Hinde, Big Interior Mountain, Rugged Mountain, and Mt. Arrowsmith, all but the last two of which lie within British Columbia's first Provincial Park, Strathcona Park. Additional material on other mountains, not in the book, is available on-line at www.members.shaw.ca/beyondnootka.
While not a climbing guide, this is a book that should be read by anyone who is thinking of climbing in the area (and from my, albeit limited experience in Strathcona Park, this is well worth doing.) It will give context and stimulate your interest. My only complaint is that for a book so well illustrated, and so rich in describing the routes of the early pioneers, the map provided borders on useless. It is so low resolution thatvirtually none of the locations discussed appear on it. This is easy to fix: just buy a good map of the island at the same time you buy the book, but it is disappointing, nevertheless.
This is a collection celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Vancouver Island section of the Alpine Club of Canada. About half of the book consists of a well chosen collection of essays documenting important and memorable climbs on the island made by section members - most of which are followed up by comments by the editor. The rest of the book rounds out the history of the century with chapters by Elms.
See also Schimmel (2004). Annotation to come.
This book was published shortly after the 1933 flight over Everest that Etherton was instrumental in organizing. I talks a bit about the flight, but its main focus is to give a portrait of the geography, people and culture of the Himalaya.
A travel autobiography of Col. Etherton who was one of the organizers of the first flight over Everest in 1933. Includes accounts of his travels in North America, China, Japan, and India, among others. Chapter 14 is about his experiences around the Everest flight, although it says nothing about the flight itself, but rather events on the periphery. What is most interesting, although having nothing to do with Everest, is the previous chapter that discusses his personal relationship with Hitler. See also Clydesdale & McIntyre (1936), Douglas-Hamilton (1983) and Fellowes et al (1933).
A short book with a set of sketches, annotated cartoons really, done by Evans during the 1953 Everest expedition. Delightful, and worth seeking out.
This is a recent soft-cover reissue of Eyre's book, which was originally published in London in 1843 by John Murray, with the full title, The Military Operations at Cabul, Which Ended in the Retreat and Destruction of the British Army, January 1842 With a Journal of Imprisonment in Affghanistan. It is a pretty compelling read, as the level of incompetence coupled with the level of hardship and destruction of the British force is staggering. The first-hand account brings it pretty much to life. It is also an interesting reflection of the time. While the legend is that there was only one survivor of the force, Dr. Brydon, there were were others who survived due to being taken prisoner and/or hostage - obviously the author being one of them. The Appendix sheds some light on this. The retreat from Kabul resulte in the deaths of about 4,500 British and Indian soldiers, and about 12,000 camp followers (servants, etc.). Of the British soldiers, the Appendix lists 103 as the number of British officers killed. However, it also lists 19 who were saved (again, as prisoners and/or hostages). Remarkably, that almost 20%. Clearly, it was a good thing to be a British officer if the entire army and followers are otherwise going to be wiped out! In addition to Dr. Brydon, and an unknown number of camp followers and Indian troops who broke away from the retreat and made their way home, Eyre lists 106 prisoners who were released in September 1842. These included the aforementioned British officers, as well as other soldiers, wives, children and some servants.
The interested reader should also see Dalrymple's, Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, the Journals of Lady Sale (I have the 1969 edition edited by Patrick Macrory), Kaye's History of the War in Afghanistan , and Fortescue's volume of related maps.
This is the chronicle of the travels of the early Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Fa-Hsien (Faxian) who traveled from central China (AD 399), across the Taklamakan desert, over the Pamir Plateau, and through India. He returned to China, by ship via Ceylon and Sumatra, reaching China in 413. Annotation to come.
This is an extremely readable history of the constant series of small wars and skirmishes that took place during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), and which held the empire together. (There was, as he points out, at least one such war every single year of Victoria's reign.) Given the role that it played in the empire, a great deal of the book relates to topics relevant to India and Central Asia. Farwell's focus is on the wars themselves and the personalities of those who took part, as opposed to the geopolitical circumstances that brought them about. Farwell is at his best in giving a human face to the protagonists in all of this, from the mighty to the most lowly. Given the breath of the material covered, it seldom goes deep, and there are errors. Despite this, especially due to the quality and (the often humorous) tone of the writing, this is one of the best, and most engaging overviews of the campaigns of the the era that I have read.
This is a book which claims to demystify Tibet from the perspective of its "history, culture, people from its seventh century origins to the present day [sic.]." Feigon sets out to penetrate "the veil of myths that have been written about Tibet, " and "examine the country behind the myths to locate the origins of today's Tibet and to sort out its controversial relationship with China." Well, in my opinion, he does anything but. Rather, what he does do is replace one set of myths with another - one which suits his political agenda, which is to dismiss any basis (historical, cultural, political, ...) for China's position on Tibet. His is a very biased reading of history which performs no productive scholarly function. In fact, it is overly generous of me to suggest that he argues his case, since for an argument to exist, there must be two sides presented.
My understanding is that history, to be taken seriously, must at least give the appearance of being objective. Feigon's bias is not openly declared, but it drips off of every page. It is so strong that he cannot resist interrupting the flow of his text to interject any anti-Chinese point that he can think of, regardless of how trivial, irrelevant, or disruptive it is to the point at hand. The irony is that by doing so, he hurts his case rather than helps it. Under the pretense of scholarship and history, Feigon has created something approaching propaganda, and propaganda is propaganda, regardless of the merits of the cause. This is too bad because the issues are worthy of attention. For those interested in these issues, I would recommend Schell's Virtual Tibet. This is a case where a journalist, Schell, demonstrates a level of scholarship that by far eclipses that of the supposed historian, Feigon.
Demystifying Tibet was first published in the US in 1996 by Ivan R. Dee, Inc. It is not worth buying in either edition, except as an example of how not to write history.
This is an account of the first flight over Everest, which took place in 1933.It includes a number of photos, some in stereo for which a stereo viewer is included (but not in the “cheap edition”, first published in 1935). See also Clydesdale & McIntyre (1936), Douglas-Hamilton (1983) and Etherton (1934). Annotation to come.
Fielder, John (2004). Mountain Ranges of Colorado. Englewood CO: Westcliffe Publishers Inc
This is a coffee-table type book which, as the title suggests, is a photo-essay on the ranges of Colorado. The photographs are uniformly outstanding, and there are some which take one’s breath away. Fielder has used a large format 4”x5” view camera, so the depth of field and resolution of the images is stunning, and the quality of their reproduction through the printing process and paper used is such as to show them to full advantage. The whole physical package is exceptional. The one thing that drove me nuts about the book, however, is the lack of an index. I just don’t understand how anyone would author or publish a photo essay ona mountain range and then not provide the means whereby the reader can look up a specific mountain by name and find the page(s) on which there is an image of it. Everything else was outstanding (other than the dubious, and repeated, use of the word "Sherpa" for those who carried his equipment.).
An account of Robert Falcon Scott's expeditions to the Antarctic. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
The first six pages of this article are made up of a speech made by Finch to the Geographical Society in November 1922, following his participation in the attempt on Everest that year. The rest transcribes the discussion that followed. Finch gives his thoughts and recommendations on equipment for subsequent expeditions, with the main focus, especially in the discussion on oxygen. However, it does include some interesting thoughts, including the benefit of smoking tobacco above 25, 000 feet.
This is a climbing biography by one of the heroes of British turn-of-the-century mountaineering. It includes accounts of his climbs in the UK, Alps, and Everest in 1922. Annotation to come.
This is a beautifully produced account, in German, about the 1922 Everest expedition. Even if you read German, you may have trouble with this, since it is printed in the older gothic script. However, the photos are wonderful and not all in the Bruce's official expedition account. Fortunately for those who cannot read German, an English language translation of this book was issued in 2008, George Ingle Finch's The Struggle for Everest, edited by George Rodway. This is certainly worth getting. However, I would still recommend getting the original German edition as well, since the photos in the Rodway edition are not the same as in the original, and the photos in the original are much higher quality reproductions - and the 1925 German edition is not expensive on the used market, relative to English language volumes of the same era and importance.
Salkeld & Boyle (1993) describe this small softbound book as “Basically, a transln [sic.] of his 1925 German book.” (See Der Kamph um den Everest, above.) However, this is only very marginally accurate. For example, the German book is 208 pages, an. the English one 78. It covers the expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924, but the emphasis is on the 1922 expedition in which Finch was a participant. Do not confuse this book, Climbing Mount Everest, with articles published by the same name by Finch in, Boys Annual.
This is a brief article giving a summary of the history of the Schlagintweit brothers and a discussion about why their contribution has faded over the years. See also Hewitt (2008) and Finkelstein (2000).
This is one of the three accounts (along with The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest, by Anker & Roberts, and Ghosts of Everest - The Search for Mallory and Irvine, by Hemmleb, Johnson and Simonson), of the 1999 expedition which found the body of Mallory on Everest. See the notes on the book by Hemmleb, et al. for more details on the expedition. Full annotation to come.
This is a recent anthropological study of the Sherpa. See also Ortner. Annotation to come.
This is a small 77 page book. The first half is on the Himalaya, and the second half on the 1921 and 1922 Everest expeditions. It is in German (gothic script) and beautifully illustrated. The title can be translated as, On top of Chomolungma, the Peak of the Earth: The Himalaya and their Highest Peak, Mount Everest, or Chomolungma.
I confess that books that talk about "the conquest" of mountains have one strike against them right from the start. However, I will set that aside. While ostensibly a history of the Alpes, this volume is rather limited in terms the part of the range covered, and even within that restriction, which mountains are discussed in any detail. (Interested readers are also referred to Braham's, When the Alps Cast their Spell.) The main focus is on the central and western Alpes, with a concentration on a few of the obvious candidates, especially Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. There is nothing of the Austrian Alpes or the Dolomites, for example.
After a brief introduction to the very early forays into the region, the detailed chronicle begins with the trips of Saussure and Bourrit in the Mont Blanc region, around the 1770's. It then continues through the so-called "Golden Age", marked by the author as starting with the ascent of the Wetterhorn by Wills in 1854, and ending with Wymper's climbing the Matterhorn in 1865. It then winds down, ending with a cursory overview of the attempts on the Eiger nordwand, in the 1930's. Mont Blanc, and the competition between Tyndall and Wymper for the Matterhorn dominate the book, along with characters such as Wills, Paccard, Smith, Coolidge, Agassiz, Forbes, and Stephen.
Ultimately, I found the book rather flat. But what it lacked in detail, it at least provided motivation for additional reading, as well as reasonable road-map for doing so. In this latter regard, the book is well served by a good index and excellent notes. It's biggest flaw is the complete absence of any photos of the mountains or areas discussed, and the inclusion of only one poor map of the region. I just do not understand people who write books on travel and exploration, and do not provide adequate materials so that the reader can follow the travels of the people discussed. This book is a total failure in this regard.
This is an extremely well researched and written account of the British mission to Tibet in 1903-04 led by Younghusband. After a general history of Tibet and western contact with it, Fleming gives a solid introduction to the background of "The Great Game" where Russia and Britain were vying for influence in Asia. While the focus is on the mission itself, this is continually set in the context of the other players, especially the instigator, the Viceroy of India, Curzon, and his struggles with Kitchener, the Secretary of State, Brodrick, and the cabinet of Balfour.
With the clarity of hindsight, it is amazing to see how flimsy, and unfounded, the pretexts were for this expedition. And, in many ways, it went downhill from there. The end result of the mission was not satisfactory, or fair, to any of the players. But Fleming makes a strong argument that Younghusband, while he made mistakes, performed extremely well, and that much of the criticism that fell his way at the end was the result of Brodrick's attempts to discredit Curzon, rather than anything that was deserved.
One cannot read this book without shaking one's head in amazement at how Younghusband's mission spent a winter with a large force, deep in Tibet. And it is fascinating to see how the image of Lhasa, as a mysterious golden city, is shattered by the description of filth and squalor that was the reality, as much in 1904 as in 1811, when Manning described much the same thing.
The book finishes up with an epilogue that provides a summary of events in Tibet from 1905 up to 1960, and tries to relate these events to those of 1904-5. I would recommend this volume to anyone interested in Tibet and Tibetan politics. The only place where I felt it fell short is in its treatment of Kitchener, whose influence and importance to the story was not reflected in the amount of background information and content on him.
The is an extremely well written and entertaining account of a number of lightweight climbs made by Fowler and friends. This is a far cry from the grunt/epic/hero/tragedy school of mountain writing. In some ways, the climbing is a backdrop to simply great story telling, powers of observation, and travel writing. And yet, the book is outstanding, in an understated way, in how maps and photos help establish context for the climbs and tavels described in the text. See also Learning to Breathe for Andy Cave's account of the same expedition to Changabang's North Face that is described in this volume by Fowler.
This is a modern reprint from the original, A History of the British Army, written by Fortescue between 1899 and 1930. This particular short volume consists of a collection of maps pertaining to the First Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-42. The maps provide a good companion to the books on the topic, such as, Dalrymple's, Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, the Journals of Lady Sale (I have the 1969 edition edited by Patrick Macrory), Eyre's, The Military Operations at Cabul: The Retreat and Destruction of the British Army, 1842, and Kaye's History of the War in Afghanistan.
This is a short (95 page) biography of the Hungarian traveler, and Tibetan Scholar, Alexander Csoma de Körösi. Between 1818 and 1842, he made a remarkable journey, largely overland, from Hungary, to India, via Beirut, Baghdad, Teheran, Merv, Bokhara, Kabul, Peshawar, Lahore, and Leh. There is little known about him, so this brief, easy to read book is more than a welcome addition to the literature.
This is the third biography of Sir Francis Younghusband. See also Seaver (1952) and Verrier (1991). Younghusband, an explorer, soldier, spy, writer of 26 books, initiator of organizations, and mystic, was as remarkable a man as he was complicated.
He established his initial reputation as a traveler and explorer by two back-to-back trips that he took, starting in 1886, which along with other trips, are described in his, The Heart of a Continent and Wonders of the Himalaya. He began with a 6 month trip in Manchuria, skirting the borders of Korea and Russian territory. While his own account is presented as that of a tourist / traveler, he was actually conducting military intelligence (and having a great trip at the same time). This trip ended in Beijing, and was followed by a phenomenal trip, back to India, overland establishing a new route through the Gobi Desert, through Kashgar and Yarkand in Chinese Turkistan, and then through the Himalaya via a first traverse of the Mustagh Pass, near K2. Given Younghusband's later association with the Himalaya, it is easy to assume that he was an accomplished mountaineer. This was not the case, and his first experiences with glaciers, for example, were on these pioneering trips, which (considering his lack of experience, equipment and technique), makes them all the more remarkable. French's account of this part of Younghusband's life expands greatly on one's appreciation of the background and context that one would get by reading Younghusband alone, and it also sheds some extremely interesting insights on some of the events, by contrasting the accounts in his journals with those published in the book.
The next milestone, or major phase, in his career was his leadership of the controversial British "mission to", (a polite euphemism for "invasion of") Tibet, as part of "The Great Game". In essence, Britain, and especially Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, believed (mistakenly, it turned out), that Russia was establishing influence in Tibet, which they would then exploit in order to make inroads into the northern frontier of British India. Younghusband was dispatched on what was to be a diplomatic mission to curb the Russian influence, and obtain a treaty that would establish relations with the British. Besides Younghusband's own account, and the background in his India and Tibet, I also have first person accounts by two journalists who were on the mission: Perceval Landon, of the Times, whose account is The Opening of Tibet, and Edmund Candler, of the Daily Mail, who wrote The Unveiling of Lhasa. As well, I have one of the standard histories of the expedition, Fleming's, Bayonets to Lhasa. This event hurt Younghusband as much as it helped him. While publicly he was a hero, he clearly overstepped his mandate, and even worse, was caught in the crossfire of anti Curzon sentiments. Hence, while he received a title for his effort, it also was a "career limiting move." Again, French has done his homework and his research and treatment are lucid and thorough.
For those who are students of Everest, perhaps Younghusband first came to their attention through his presidency of the Royal Geographical Society and chairmanship of the Mount Everest Committee, through which he was central in the organization of the first three Everest expeditions, which he wrote about in his book, The Epic of Mount Everest. While highly visible to the climbing community, this is an aspect of Younghusband's life that is treated relatively lightly in this biography. Perhaps the main reason for this is that this was just one of many activities that he was involved in in this phase of his life, where his reputation and drive were leading him to starting or becoming involved in a wider range of organizations.
However, among these, the most dominant theme of his life at this stage is that of what might best be described as "religious philosopher." Here we see the paradox of a Victorian who agreed to marriage on the condition that it not be consummated (but it was), and who was clearly uncomfortable with intimacy, writing about the virtues of free love, and love replacing God, and then initiating some of the first ecumenical organizations in Britain. For me, this is where French does the best job. I have never been able to reconcile the soldier who invaded Lhasa with the religious mystic. This is a puzzle which French handles extremely well.
One reaction in reading this biography is that of disappointment, in having one's "boys own hero" revealed as being all too human and fallible. One cannot read this book without feeling a little sad for the man. If only he had lived in more recent times, how different he might have been. But then, his greatness was also a thing of his time, and was all the more remarkable because of his weaknesses. He is one of the most remarkable men, among remarkable men.
This is part of a debate about the naming of Everest. See Walker (1886a), " Notes on Mont Everest."
This is an essay written around the time that that the 1924 Everest expedition set out, discussing the question of whether Everest could be climbed or not. The author believed that it could, but that it required proper food, (arctic type) clothing, and military-type discipline on the part of the climbers. He also expressed the opinion that it made no more difference if you climbed Everest with oxygen (which he strongly advocated), or not.
Freshfield, Douglas W., Kellas, Dr., Farrar, J.P. & Younghusband, Francis (1919). Discussion: A Journey to Tashirak in Southern Tibet, and the Eastern Approaches to Mount Everest. Geographical Journal, 53(5), 303-308.
This is the famous discussion following Noel’s presentation (Noel, 1919) which led to the formation of the Mount Everest Committee and the first Everest expedition in 1921.
This is the first anthropological study ofthe Sherpa. See also Ortner. Annotation to come.
This is an anthropological study of the Himalayan people of North Eastern India, Annotation to come.
This is an autobiography of Ghulam Rassul Galwan who, in the l890's worked on a number of key expeditions in Central Asia. The book describes his experience with Younghusband in Chinese Turkistan, Lord Dunmore and Major Roche to the Pamirs, the Littledales, on their trip through Tibet, and finally his first expedition with Robert Le Moyne Barrett, who was to have a large influence on his life. Galwan was also the caravan bashi on De Filippi's central asian expedition of 1913-1914.
The largest section concerns the trip of the Littledales, which is of special interest since it was such an amazing trip, and because there is so little available on it (There is only a brief article published in 1896 in the The Royal Geographical Journal, reproduced with copies of three large format maps and an introduction by Nicholas and Elizabeth Clinch.) Mr. and Mrs. Littledale made a number of remarkable trips, but in the one described in the article mentioned above, and in this book, they (along with their nephew and Mrs. Littledale's dog, made a grueling trip from Turkistan, through Kashgar, Yarkand and Chechen, through Tibet from the north, to within 45 miles of Lhasa. When they were finally turned back, they returned via a westerly route to Ladakh. This is a fascinating trip, and one that deserves far more attention that it has received.
In a literature dominated by a European perspective, this book is a rare and compelling account from the other side, shall we say. It was written and assembled over a period of 14 years, with the encouragement and editing of an American, Robert Le Moyne Barrett and his wife, Katharine Ruth Barrett; ( however, as I have already mentioned, only the first trip with Barrett is described in this book). The Barretts helped teach Galwan English, and rather bravely refrained from turing his writing into "the King's English." The book is one of the best reads that you will encounter anywhere, and if read aloud, as suggested by that editors, it gives you the true sense that Galwan is truly there speaking to you in his own voice, and he is an outstanding story teller.
This book is worth chasing down regardless of how hard you have to try. This UK edition was first released by Heffer & Sons, Cambridge, 1923. My US edition is the second printing, 1924 (the first printing, likewise, being in 1923).
This is the
exhibit of Sella's photography mounted in 2006 by the
The Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderne e Contemporanea in Torino.
It has wonderful large size reproductions of Sella's work.
See also , and
See alsoSummit: Vittorio Sella Mountaineer and Photographer the Years 1879 - 1909, The Splendid Hills: The Life and Photographs of Vittorio Sella: 1859-1943
, andAlpinismo Italiano in Karakorum / Italian Mountaineering in the Karakoram.
This is a first-hand account of the events on Everest in the spring of 1996. The book is problematic. It is terribly written. To a large part, it is an expanded diary, with a little new-age philosophy thrown in. But if you are interested in the events that took place on Everest that spring, it is nevertheless a book well worth reading. Gammelgaard had a reasonable amount of climbing experience and she is one of the few writers who seems capable of stepping back and contrasting the Fischer and Hall philosophies of guiding. Many of her observations are telling, including her views on responsibility and climbing. Now, if you can just get over her writing.
Annotation to come. See also Volume I: The Beginning-1800 and Volume III: 1891-Present. The maps of these three volumes are now also becoming available on-line, which is fantastic. See: http://www.historicalatlas.ca/website/hacolp/browse.htm
This book is a rare thing: a coffee table type book that is as interesting to read as it is to look at. It is a compilation of writing which traces the history of Everest from its first "discovery" by Europeans, up to 1992. It is a wonderful companion to Unsworth. Unsworth gives the detailed history, as told by him. Furthermore, it is limited in its illustrations. This volume has fantastic images of some of the most important climbs discussed by Unsworth, generally accompanied by first person accounts. See also the excellent and extensive anthology edited by Lewis (2003).
This is a recent biography of Mallory. It is well researched and makes extensive use of Mallory’s correspondence, much of it only recently available. The book is well rounded and does not just focus on Mallory as a climber. It does the best job of any of the biographies of painting a portrait of the times and the social milieu in which Mallory lived. The Everest climbs occupy only the last four of the thirteen chapters. And, despite being written after the discovery of Mallory’s body, the book avoids any of the sensational speculation that too often surrounds any discussion of Mallory and Irvine. The book is balanced, and well worth reading. It is certainly the best volume available in terms of the early biographical details of Mallory’s life. Despite this, however, my feeling is that the biography by Holzel, & Salkeld (1986), gives an augmented, if not stronger, sense of the man. These two volumes together paint the best portrait Mallory (although I have not yet read the most recent biography by Davis.
Besides this volume, the biographies of Mallory are, in chronological order: Pye (1927), Styles (1967), Robertson (1969), Holzel & Salkeld (1986), Green (1990), Salkeld (2000), Green (2005), and Davis (2011).
This is a revisitation / reevaluation of the first "direct" ascent of the Eiger. Up to the present, the most well known account of this climb has been Gillmn & Haston (1966). Lesser know, largely due to appearing only in German, is the account of the German team, Lehne & Haag, (1966), which played such a pivotal role in the drama that transpired. About 50 years later, Peter Gillman (with co-author Leni Gillman and help by Jochen Hemmleb) - who was on-location reporting on the climb for The Daily telegraph - revisit the story told in 1966, making full use of resources which were either unavailable or unkown at the time. The existance of this "double take" makes this book all the more interesting, at least for those who read both this and Gillmn & Haston - not to mention the other accounts. If nothing else, it provides a helthy reminder that there is no one full and accurate acount of any climb, and thus, the whole literature needs to be approached with this in mind.
This is an account of the 1966 first ascent of the direct route on the North Face of the Eiger. It is the account of a (nominally) three person US-UK team led by John Harlin. (I say nominally three people, since a number of pitches were led by Chris Bonington, who was officially the climb photographer, rather than part of the climbing team.) Key to the account is a German team which was attempting the same route at the same time. The relationship between the two teams can best be described as coopetition. The climb was done in winter, in order to minimize the risk of falling rocks. Harlin's team initially planned to do the ascent alpine style, in about 10 days. This soon changed to siege tactics, with fixed ropes, and the climb eventually took a full month.
There seems no question that one of the reasons for this change in tactics was the terrible weather that they encountered. It also seems clear to me that they would never have started the climb under those conditions had the German team not started on the mountain. Initially the teams climbed side by side as separate ropes, although Harlin's team used the German ropes on the "easier" initial sections. In the last of the climb, which was as much about survival as climbing, the remnants of the two teams, including Dougal Haston, climbed together to the summit.
While the climb was ultimately "successful", in that they made the summit, one can't help but wonder what was accomplished by doing so, using such brute force means. The climb never seems to achieved any sense of rhythm, was full of contrasts (such as the team alternating between the deprivation of days in a snow cave on the face, with days of casual comfort in the hotel, with its attendant bar, at the base), and the climbers never seemed to gel as a team.
I recommend also read the updated assessment of the climb found in Gillman & Gillman (2015), which is based on a far broader foundation of research. Also, the far-less known account of the German team, Lehne & Haag, (1966) is worth chasing down. Even if you don't read German, the photos alone make the effort worthwhile.
While a classic in terms of the climb and the book, it is also disquieting. The endurance and perseverance of the climbers is beyond question. And I know that this is easy to say after the fact. Nevertheless, on reading this volume, as well as its revisitation in Gillman & Gillman (2015), one can't help be struck by how the climb reflects much of what is wrong with mountaineering as much as what makes it so interesting. At the very least, I - for one - can't help coming away with the belief that if Harlin's judgment was not clouded by competition, he may well be alive today.
Finally, for a biography of Harlin, see Ullman's Straight Up - John Harlin: The Life and Death of a Mountaineer, of Bonington, see Curran's, High Achiever: the Life and TImes of Chris Bonington', and of Haston, see Connor's, Dougal Haston: The Philosophy of Risk,. for Haston's autobiography, see, In High Places.
Gippenreiter, Yevgeniy (1994). Mount Everest and the Russians, 1952 and 1958. In Joanna Merz (Ed.). The Alpine Journal. 99(343), 109-115.
This is a discussion of the reported/rumoured Russian expedition of 1952 to the north side of Everest. As the story goes, the attempt was led by Pavel Datshnolian. They made their attempt in November/December, and reportedly made their last camp at 8, 200 metres. All six members of the assault team disappeared without a trace, including the leader. Speculation is that they were swept away by an avalanche. Gippenreiter's case is that there is no evidence or hearsay within the Russian climbing community that this ever took place. One would think that if the expedition did take place, that evidence of it would have been found on the mountain by now. While there are certainly reports of unexplained, or hard to explain bodies and tent remains high on the mountain (for example, see Hemmlleb, et al, 1999, and Hemmleb & Simonson, 2002 ), none of these have been tied to a 1952 Russian expedition.
A good balance of informed commentary with clear maps illustrating key events in the exploration of North America.
This is a recent essay that provides a balanced discussion of the "Tibet Question." See also Grunfeld, A. Tom (1996). The Making of Modern Tibet. Full annotation to come.
This is a good book for conspiracy theorists, and those who still want to make the first ascent of Everest. What is argued is that the British did not summit the mountain in 1953, and that the whole thing was faked in order to enhance the prestige of Britain at a critical time in her history, namely after she had had to leave India (an end) and the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (a beginning).. The arguments are as compelling as those, which “prove” that the Americans faked Armstrong’s visit to the moon.
Yet another biography of Mallory. See also, in chronological order, the biographies by Pye (1927), Styles (1967), Robertson (1969), Holzel & Salkeld (1986), Gillman & Gillman (2000) , Salkeld (2000), Green (2005), and Davis (2011).
This is an expanded biography of Mallory compared to Green's previous one from 1990. Among other things, it takes into account the finding of Mallory's body. See also, in chronological order, the biographies by Pye (1927), Styles (1967), Robertson (1969), Holzel & Salkeld (1986), Green (1990), Gillman & Gillman (2000) , Salkeld (2000), and Davis (2011).
The sub-title of this book is a pretty accurate description of what it is. This is less a biography than a number of interesting, well written anecdotes from the brother of the novelist Graham Greene. Reading it was what I imagine it to have been like sitting beside a charming dinner guest in an English country home 50 years ago, where there was a certain culture, class, education, and attitude that included the ability to keep the conversation going with a good story. One example is his account of having recorded his BBC announcement of the conquering of Everest by Hillary and Tenzing before they had actually done so. Most of the book is not about climbing. However, towards the end, he does talk about his introduction to Himalayan climbing, which was with Smythe on Kamet in 1931. (See also Kamet Conquered.) And then, there are four chapters at the end that discuss his experience as a climber and medical officer on the 1933 Everest expedition. Written well after the fact, there is some distance that lets him be somewhat more candid than had he written in the 1930's, and yet some of the attitudes of that earlier time, which would today be seen as politically incorrect, still remain.
This is one of the classic, reasonably recent, studies on the emergence of modern Afghanistan. Annotation to come.
This is a wonderful collection of black and white photos by Alfred Gregory, of the 1953 Everest expedition. Being a recent publication, the quality of the reproductions is better than that found in Hunt's, Our Everest Adventure. It is also a larger format book.
This is a collection of photographs by Gregory in a coffee-table book format, with a number of photos from the 1953 Everest expedition. The photo reproductions are of very high standard, and are accompanied by informative captions by Gregory. Worth seeing out.
This is a wonderful book to read. The style of writing is archaic, even though it is not that old, but it has a certain charm. Grey was not a trained historian, and the accuracy of some of what he has written has been questioned. Furthermore, it is somewhat frustrating, since some of the key sources that he references are not listed in the bilbliography. Having said all of this, Grey gives a a number of portaits of a group of European adventurers who lived on the periphery of British India, both socially and geographically. These include, especially, British (mostly deserters) and French (remnants of Napoleon's army) mercenaries who were employed by native rulers of domains lying outside the border of British India. These are largely not people who show up in history books, but are fascinating for who they are, and what they did. My view is that this is a book well worth searching out.
This is a climbing biography of the Australian Michael Groom, covering his Himalayan expeditions starting with Annapurna II in 1983, and concluding with Everest in the Spring of 1996. In the last, he was a guide with Rob Hall's team, and the chapter devoted to this climb is a very personal account that contributes to the larger picture painted by the other books on the topic. He is honest about he might have otherwise done to help Andy Harris on the South Summit, and questions what might have been done differently. But as a guide, nevertheless, he makes no overall analysis, nor comments on some of the basic decisions of the expedition. One has to draw one's own conclusions.
This is an account of the spread of Buddhism from India to China, along the Silk Road, mainly during the T'ang Dynasty around the seventh century. Full annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is the revised, 2nd edition of the original 1987 book. It is a modern analysis of the "Tibet Question", which discusses the current situation of Tibet in the larger context of the country's political, economic and religious history. See also Goldstein, Melvyn (1997). The Snow Lion and the Dragon.
Gypsy Davy and Lady Ba (1927). The Himalayan Letters of Gypsy Davy and Lady Ba.
These are pseudonyms for the authors, Katharine Ruth Barrett and Robert Le Moyne Barrett. Click on the title, above to get to the proper reference.
This is an account of Habeler and Messner's 1978 first ascent of Everest without bottled oxygen. See also Messner's account of the expedition.
This is a short book describing the author's successful expedition to K2 in 1993. It is mainly a photo essay, and is full of beautiful colour plates.
This is not a "big" book. Nevertheless, it is one that is important to me. It is essentially a collection of five essays, each accompanied by a large collection of Haberl's spectacular colour photographs. The essays range from his experience on K2, to mutiple attempts (and retreats) on the Devil's Thumb, on the B.C./Alaska border, and a rescue in Peru. I like Haberl's writing as much as his photography, and in the latter, he is one of the best. A "simple" quote perhaps best illustrates why I like his writing. Speaking of risk ("... the process of engaging in an activity without the security of knowing the consequences of your decision."), which is the underlying theme of the book, he writes, "To attempt such a venture and fail comes with a cost, but to dream of something within my means and never pursue that dream exacts an ever greater price. We grow as individuals as we explore and extend our personal boundaries."
Hagen, Toni, Dyhrenfurth, Günter Oskar, von Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph & Scheider, Erwin (1963). Mount Everest: Formation, Population and Exploration of the Everest Region. London: Oxford University Press.
This is an English translation (by E. Noel Bowman) of a volume that first appeared in German in 1959 under the title, Mount Everest - Aufbau, Erforschung Und Bevölkerung Des Everest - Gebietes. Each author contributes one chapter. Hagen’s is an introduction to the geological structure of the massif. Dyhrenfurth provides yet another summary of the exploration in the region. Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf writes on the anthropology of the Sherpa (see also Ortner, 1999). Finally, the book includes a large fold-out map, which is introduced in the final chapter by and Schneider. The chapters by Hagen and Scheider are what most make the book worth searching out. Regarding maps and mapping of Everest, see also Washburn (1988), National Geographic (2003) and Ward (2003).
This is an interview with Jack Irvine (no relation to Sandy), who was one of the New Zealand pilots who flew over Everest in 1945. The interview took place in 2004, shortly before Irvine's 86th birthday. It is a very interesting supplement to the account by Andrews; however, it is clear that the details in this interview are not as accurate - which is understandable, given Irvine's age at the time, and that he was describing events that took place 59 years earlier. By comparing the two accounts, it appears that Irvine was likely in the second flight that seems to have taken place about two weeks after the first one (the one that Andrews describes). I say this because Irvine states that "McConnachy" [sic.] flew with Andrews (who confirms that he flew with Squadron Leader C. Fenwick on his first flight, and Wing Commander T.D. Connochie - ground organizer on the 1933 Houston Expedition flights - on his second flight). It also seems that there were two planes on this second flight, with Irvine accompanied by his regular navigator, Bob Bannister in the second plane.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come. See also the earlier biography by Roberts, as well as Salkeld's " The Mad Yorkshireman", Shipton's autobiography, Upon that Mountain, and, especially, A.J. Russell's " The Lone Climber of Everest".
I read this book after I had read the biography of Hargreaves, Regions of the Heart, by Rose & Douglas. I'm glad that I did. I felt that it left me knowing Hargreaves better than I did having read the biography, and it also left me with a sense of wonder and respect for someone who must have been an exceptional climber, despite other shortcomings. This is an account of Hargreaves' ascent of the six classic north faces of the alps, the Grandes Jorasses, the Piz Badile, the Drus, the Matterhorn, the Cima Grande di Lavaredo, and the Eiger (a new variarion on the Lauper Face, rather than the Nordwand proper). These she did solo in a single season, and in a total climbing time of under 24 hours! But if you are looking for a pitch-by-pitch account of the climbs as you would get from Buhl, who did many of the same faces, you will be disappointed. Even in this relatively short book, the accounts of the actual climbs are sparse. And what descriptions there are lack the elegance of Rébuffat, for example whose Starlight and Storm describes his ascents of the same six north faces (note that Buhl and Rébuffat, did the Nordwand on the Eiger, rather than the easier - but still difficult - Lauper route that Hargreaves did).
What one gets instead is some insight into the discipline, determination, and talent of Hargreaves. You also get some insights into her naiveté (such as the lack of subtlety in sprinkling the entire text with plugs for her sponsors). Having read Buhl and Rébuffat' climb accounts, for example, the most overwhelming thing that one walks away with having read this book is wonder at the strength of this woman who did them all solo, and told the story without any of the heroics and self aggrandizing that would have been so easy to build into the story. This is a book, while not brilliantly written, is as remarkable for what it does not say as for what it does.
For a shorter account of these climbs, see the account by Hargreaves in the 1994 volume of The Alpine Journal.
The American Josiah Harlan was one of the more interesting adventurers in the north-west of the sub-continent in the first half of the 19th century, and it was his story that served as the basis for Kipling's, The Man Who Would be King. This volume is the only published verion of any of Harlan's journals that I am aware of, and at that, they are incomplete. While not all of Harlan's journals have been found, Ben Macintyre did uncover some additional ones during the research for his recent excellent biography of Harlan, Josiah the Great: the true story of the man who would be king. Harlan did not exactly end up pleasing the British, and since much of the history of that period was written by them, he has not always been treated generously by the British. Macintyre discusses this in his biography, but to get a a real taste of things, see that chapter on Harlan in, Grey's, European Adventurers of Northern India, 1785 to 1849.
Harley, J.B. & Woodward, David (Eds.)(1987). The History of Cartography Volume One: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
While not strictly a climbing book, it is by a noted climber and provides excellent background on the Himalaya and, especially, Tibet. It is interesting to compare Harrer's descriptions of Tibet with those of the early Everest expeditions, such as found in Smythe or Tilman. Also, as an aside, the book is significantly different than the film, and far more interesting (and I liked the film). One other comment: the hard copy edition of this book is no longer in print, but there is a paperback edition available. However, the interested reader is strongly encouraged to seek out the hard cover edition, since none of the photographs are included in the paperback, an unbelievable omission. (A hard cover edition is easy to find and inexpensive.)
Having read the book and seen the film, the next step for those interested is to read Schell's Virtual Tibet, which may change your image of Harrer, as well as give you some insights about the film (and the discrepancies relative to the book.)
This is a revised/updated version of Harrer's 1959 history of the Eiger. Harrer was a member of the team that made the first ascent, and subsequently became a student of the mountain, documenting both previous and subsequent attempts. While not the best written book in the world, it is nevertheless gripping and a must-read classic of the literature. It was reissued as a paperback by Flamingo, London, in 1995.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come. See also Volume II: 1800-1892 and Volume III: 1891-Present. The maps of these three volumes are now also becoming available on-line, which is fantastic. See: http://www.historicalatlas.ca/website/hacolp/browse.htm
This is Dougal Haston's autobiography. It covers his climbing career from its start up to his participation in the failed 1971 International Expedition which attempted the South Face of Everest, a route which Haston was to finally complete on his third try in 1975. (See Bonington's, Everest the Hard Way.) The book is remarkably well written, and has an index. However, it is as remarkable for what it leaves out about his personal life, as for what it includes about mountaineering. For a complementary perspective, see the recent biography by Connor, Dougal Haston: The Philosophy of Risk.
This book covers the history of climbing the north face of the Eiger from the Eiger Direct ascent in 1966 up to the time of publication, 1974. At the time of publication, it filled a gap following Harrer's White Spider (a gap that Harrer has since filled himself, through subsequent updates to his text.)
This is a novel by Haston, finished the day before he died in an avalanche while skiing. It is highly autobiographical, and one who has read accounts of his climbs, his biography or autobiography, will recognize characters that appear.
Annotation to come.
Elizabeth Hawley is a journalist who has acted as the unofficial archivist of Himalayan climbing. Since the first American Everest expedition in 1963, she has kept records on expeditions that have climbed in Nepal or on its border peaks, including Everest. Among other details, these include peak, climber, expedition, success/failure, nationality, conditions, seasons, and causes of death . This is a searchable database on CD-ROM that has been built from Hawley’s archives, which also includes a table detailing the literature that relates to the expeditions in the database.
The database is extremely good – certainly the most comprehensive that I am aware of. However, given its scope, it is not surprising that it has errors and omissions. For example, Ang Tharkey(Angtharkey), was on the British expeditions to Everest in 1933, 1935, 1936, 1938 and 1951, as well as the sirdar on the 1950 French expedition to Annapurna I, among others. Yet the database only includes his 1951 Everest reconnaissance expedition with Shipton. This is more a caution than a criticism.
See also the biography of Hawley, McDonald, Bernadette (2005). I'll Call You in Kathmandu.
Annotation to come
Annotation to come.
This is a first person account of the travels of the Swedish explorer, Sven Hedin, who made four trips to Central Asia, including Tibet, between 1893 and 1935. The accounts of his travels appear in a number of versions, published under separate names. To make sense of them, there is a good bibliography and guide on the web. This book is mainly an account of his expeditions of 1899-1902 and 1905-1908. During the latter, he explored and mapped the southern and western regions of Tibet. In the process, he claims to have been the first European to see what he called the "Trans-Himalaya" mountain system, as well as the source of the Indus, among others. The extent of many of his "discoveries" has been questioned. As Longstaff (one of his critics at the time) points out, for example, both Strachey and Smyth were in this region of Tibet before Hedin, and dispute the originality of Hedin's finds. For more information on this controversy, and its background, the reader is directed to Allen's, A Mountain in Tibet.
In some ways, the hyperbole of the title gives the nature of this book away. But if the season was "the most controversial", the the controversy is not matched by the writing or the story telling. The book tries to be part Into Thin Air and part Dark Shadows Falling. However, it fails to come close to either - partially because the bar was set so high, and the basic themes have already been so well covered. The story is just not that compelling, and nor is the meta-story. I really wonder if this book would exist had there not been a Discovery Channel series on the season, which gave it a much higher profile than it would have otherwise. It is not a bad book. The writing is professional. It is just not compelling in content or style.
As most students of Everest know, Mallory and Irvine disappeared on the mountain in June 1924, during a summit bid via the Northeast ridge. Since that time, two questions have plagued mountaineers: "What happened to them?" and "Did they reach the summit?" In the intervening years, small pieces of information have emerged. Irvine's ice axe was discovered in 1933 below the First Step (this discovery by Wyn Harris, is described by Smythe, in Camp Six, who also provides an Appendix speculating on the implications.). In 1975, a member of a Chinese expedition claimed to have found a body near their camp VI that appeared to be English, and was likely either Mallory or Irvine. With this and other evidence spurring them on, in 1999 a team of climbers went to the North side of Everest with the objective of searching for the remains of Mallory and Irvine, and the hope of answering the two long standing questions. To some extent their research paid off, and as most people now know, they succeeded in finding the body of Mallory. He was, by the way, almost exactly where Smythe predicted he would be (which did not help this expedition, since they appear not to have read Smythe, despite his having been part of the expedition that found Irvine's ice axe, and the first expedition on the mountain after the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine!) They did not find the one thing that they were hoping to find, however, namely the camera that Mallory and Irvine were believed to be carrying.
This book is one of the three accounts that I am aware of of this expedition (the other two being, Lost on Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine, by Firstbrook, and The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest, by Anker & Roberts). It is well written and very well illustrated, especially when one considers how quickly they got it out to print. Definitely worth reading.
This is an account to a follow-on expedition to the one described in the previous citation. They made some minor discoveries on the mountain, such as locating old camps and uncovering some interesting artifacts. However, the big “discovery” reported in the book came on a trip to China where they met with some of the participants in the 1960 Chinese expedition. Here they were told of them finding a dead body in a sleeping bag at 8, 200 metres, that is, above Mallory & Irvine’s last camp. My sense is that the level of critical analysis that they bring to this report is better found in a dime-store detective novel than serious research. The fact that the body was reportedly in a sleeping bag – something that Mallory and Irvine would almost certainly not have carried with them, is dismissed by speculation that perhaps the Chinese were mistaken. The authors do not consider that the altitude could have been wrong, or any one of many other explanations that might apply.
This is an over-padded book that has been carried by obsessive enthusiasm that has clouded objectivity. There is material of merit here, but my opinion is that a journal article, rather than a book, would have been more than adequate, and more appropriate, to convey it to the reader.
This is a biography of an Irish gunner, George Thomas, who deserted from the Indian service in 1781 and became one of the most interesting of the British adventurers who became mercenaries for the native rulers.
This is a children's book, part of the popular Tintin series, by the Belgian author Georges Prosper Remi, who wrote under the pen-name, Hergé. As per the above, I have a copy of both a French language version, as well as English. This may seem a somewhat strange book to be in the collection. It belongs, however, as one of the characters in the adventure is - a cartoon version of - Ang Tharkay. Tintin au Tibet was originally published in French, in 1960. By this time, Herzog's Annapurna had established itself as the largest selling book in the history of mountaineering literature - a position which it still may hold. And, since Annapurna was a French expedition, this was especially true in France. Given his highly visible and important role as sirdar on that expedition, this brought fame and honour to Ang Tharkay. While pure fantacy, Tintin in Tibet is both interesting and important from a cultural perspective, as an example of how Ang Tharkay's reputation crossed the barrier to myth and story telling. For more on Ang Tharkay, see his autobiography (currently only available in French, but available in English for the first time in the spring of 2016).
This is a stunning collection of photographic portraits of those who shaped the foundation of the modern age of climbing. - complemented by a set of accompanying essays. It truely does present the face - rather faces - of climbing.
This is the English language translation of Herrlingkoffer's account of the 1953 expedition that he organized, which led to the first ascent of Nanga Parbat by Hermann Buhl. The book is actually in two parts. The first part, which represents about a third of the book, is a climbing history of the mountain, beginning with the first attempt by Mummery in 1895. This part of the book has been substantially expanded by the translators, Eleanor Brockett and Anton Ehrenzweig, from Herrlingkoffer's original German edition. To put it lightly, Herrligkoffer is a controversial figure. Despite the claims of the brief biography on the dust-jacket, he was and is not an accomplished mountaineer. Rather, he was an expedition organizer - an organizer who few were ever were willing to accompany on second expedition.
Herrligkoffer was motivated to organize the 1953 expedition in order to avenge the death of his half-brother, Willy Merkl, who lost his life on the 1934 expedition to Nanga Parbat, an expedition of which Merkl was leader. He did so against strong opposition from much of the German climbing establishment. Success did not end the controversy. Buhl, especially, held bitter feelings towards the leader and the organization.
This book tells only one side of the story. It is worth reading. But the interested reader should also read Buhl's account of the expedition in his Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage, and Messner & Hofler's Hermann Buhl: Climbing without Compromise.
This is the largest selling mountaineering book of all time (outselling even Krakauer, 's Into Thin Air). It recounts the story of the French expedition which made the first ascent of Annapurna, and in so doing, made the first ascent of a mountain over 8, 000 metres. As it turns out, the story recounted is now as controversial as it is gripping, as is discussed in Roberts' book, True Summit. and Messner's response to criticism of Herzog. This is a must read. And, to get to know some of the protagonists better, it is also worth reading the books by Rébuffat and Terray. I have both the 1951 French edition and the 1952 English translation listed above. The reason why you might want both is that there are a number of photos in the former that are not in the latter. However, for a larger collection of photos of the expedition, see Herzog and Ichac's Regards vers l’Annapurna.
This is a collection of photographs documenting the 1951 French expedition to Annapurna. It is, more or less, to the Annapurna expedition what Alf Gregory's books The Picture of Everest and Alfred Gregory's Everest are to the 1953 British Everest expedition (except that Gregory's books are better in terms of the range and quality of the photos and reproduction). I found the book a valuable supplement to the book on the expedition. While the brief introductory text, and annotations of the photos are in French, the basic captions are straightforward, and the photos speak for themselves. Furthermore, Herzog's book on the expedition has been translated into numerous languages, so those who do not speak French are not handicapped. The book is soft cover.
Hewitt, Kenneth (2008). Rediscovering Colonized Landscapes: The First Europeans at the Mustagh Pass, Karakoram Himalaya, Inner Asia. In M. Gervers, U. Bulag and G. Long (Eds.) The Exploitation of the Landscape of Central and Inner Asia. Toronto Studies in Central and Inner Asia, 9. Toronto: Asian Institute, University of Toronto.
A summary of the history of the first Europeans to visit the Mustagh Pass in the Karakoram, Adolph Schlagintweit (Finkelstein 1999 & 2000) and Godwin-Austen. Clarifies routes taken and includes photographs of key points depicted in their texts.
A well-illustrated autobiography of Lynn Hill. Annotation to come.
This is an early autobiography of Hillary. The first half covers his early climbs in New Zealand, and his participation in the Mt. Everest Reconnaissance Expedition of 1951, led by Shipton, and the 1952 training expedition (also under Shipton) to Cho Oyu. The second half of the book is his account of the successful 1953 expedition, where he and Tenzing became the first to summit Everest.
This is the second autobiography of Hillary. Annotation to come.
This is the most recent autobiography by Hillary. The first chapter alone makes it worth reading. It is a description of the 1953 climb from the South Col to the summit of Everest, which is material also covered by Hillary in 1953 in a chapter of Hunt's book. But while the version in the Hunt book deals with the details of the climb, the version in this book deals with the people as well, and is all the more interesting for it. While not airing dirty laundry, Hillary, nevertheless makes clear that the team was made up of humans with personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Among other things, he also speaks candidly about his ambition to be on the summit team, and how he positioned himself accordingly. He admits, for example, that he purposely distanced himself from his regular climbing partner, Lowe, since he felt it unlikely that two New Zealand climbers would be selected as a team. Rather, he looked for the strongest climber to team up with, and that was Tenzing.
Annotation to come.
Holzel, Tom & Salkeld, Audrey (1986). The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine. London: Jonathan Cape. (US edition published in New Yorkby Henry Holt and Company under title, First on Everest: The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine.)
This is the first of the “modern” biographies of Mallory, that is, biographies that have appeared that have had access to a larger body of Mallory correspondence. In many ways, it is also the best. It is extremely well written, and for the most part, the research is excellent. In general, the newest biography by Gillman & Gillman (2000) has far more biographical detail, especially concerning the period prior to 1921, and far more candid about the circle of friends, such as with “Sayles Menagerie, ” that he cultivated at Cambridge. Despite this, this volume by Holzel and Salkeld seems to do a better job of placing Mallory in context. A chapter on “The Two Georges”, Mallory and Finch, is just one example. While shorter on biographical detail around the pre-Everest period, I have a stronger feeling for the person in this volume than that by the Gillmans.
There are two other comments worth making about this volume. First, Holzel has put forward the theory that Irvine and Mallory split up at the top of the Second Step, with Mallory continuing on, while Irvine went back alone. However, this is contained in a separate chapter, and in no way slants the perspective in the rest of the book. Second, the book has a peculiar structure in that the biographical details of Mallory’s life at Cambridge, and prior to 1921 occurs out of sequence, at the end of the book, after the account of the 1924 climb. Strange, but not an issue.
See also, in chronological order, the biographies by Pye (1927), Styles (1967), Robertson (1969), Green (1990), Gillman & Gillman (2000) , Salkeld (2000), Green (2005), and Davis (2011). As well, see the biography of Irvine by Summers (2000), and Irvine’s diaries (Carr, 1979).
This is a very good collection of essays. Following an introductory overview, each of the following essays is on the history of one of the key cities of Central Asia. Cities covered include Ashkhabad, Bokhara, Kashgar, Merve, and Tashkent, among others. As well, there are summary essays on the Silk Road, and the Transcaspian Railway (this last was very welcome to me, as I have found little in the way of writing on its history). Each of the essays is free-standing, which means that there is a degree of redundancy. But that does not hurt the book. This is not a traveller's guide or tour book. It is a wonderful encapsulation of the history of the areas covered. Well researched and a good bibliography.
This is perhaps the first study of western archaeology along the Silk Road by people such as Stein (Mirsky, Walker). It provides a good discussion of the debate on the ethics of removing artifacts to the west using the justification of their preservation, versus leaving them in the countries where they were found. The arguments are are the more interesting when one considers how many of the artifacts moved to the west (in particular Germany), were in fact destroyed there, during WW II.
This is a history of the various incursions and explorations of Tibet, and attempts to reach Lhasa, beginning with the trip of Captain Montgomerie in 1865, and ending with the Chinese invasion of 1950. (As such, it does not cover the earlier visits in the 1600's and 1700's by Catholic priests, such as Fathers Andrade, Marques and Desideri), or the British visits in the 1700's and early 1800's by Bogle, Turner and Manning. For references to these expeditions, see the introductory essay, Early Exploration of the Himalaya, Karakoram and Tibet, above.)
This is an outstanding history of the area of Central Asia surrounding northern Indian sub-continent where the empires of England, Russia and China met. It is one of the best written history books that I have read. It addresses the maneuvering for position and influence in the area in the 19th century, by these empires. The title of the book, "The Great Game, " is a term to describe this struggle, first coined by one of the players, Captain Arthur Conolly, and made popular by Rudyard Kipling, in his book, Kim. A good companion to this volume is Meyer and Brysac's, Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia. It also ties in to a number of other books in my collection, including most of the books by and about Sir Francis Younghusband (I have several of these, but The Heart of a Continent, is a good place to start), Morgan's Ney Elias. Explorer and envoy extraordinary in High Asia, and John Keay's excellent history, When Men and Mountains Meet. Given the happenings of the past year, the history of this region is all the more relevant and worth understanding. These books do an excellent job of laying a foundation for this.
In 1994, this book was republished in paperback in New York by Kodansha, under the title, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia.
This is an account of efforts to weaken Britain during WWI by destabilizing India. The book is essentially in two parts. The first half, which is almost independent of the second, is an account of how Germany worked with Turkey to try and overthrow British rule through sowing and supporting dissent within the country (with arms, money, etc.), as well from the outside, especially by trying to enlist support of its neighbors, mainly Persia and Afghanistan. The story, as Hopkirk tells it, is that Germany and Turkey tried to accomplish this largely be stirring up religious resentment against the English "infidels." The problem is, Hopkirk's story is muddled. On the one hand he plays on the importance of the pasha of Turkey as being the nominal head of Islam, and therefore casts his tale around Islamic fundamentalism. But on the other, he loses credibility by talking about Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs rising in a holy war "under the banner of allah." (p. 204, p.1) What nonsense! Sikhs and Hindus are just as much "infidels" to Muslims, as are Christians. Hopkirk seems so caught up in promoting his tale of a "Holy War" against the British, that he weakens significantly what could otherwise be an interesting narrative on a relatively unknown piece of history.
Hopkirk then seems to feel that the story of the German activities in Persia and Afghanistan was not enough for a book, so he then spends the second half of this volume talking about the conflict along the Russian border with Persia and Trans-Caspia. Again, what happened during WWI in this area, especially after Russia pulled out of the war, is an area of history that is as fascinating as it is neglected. But it also has almost nothing to do with the German "plot" to ferment a holy war in India, and is essentially a separate story. This could be fine, if were not for Hopkirk's periodic, but unsuccessful, attempts to tie the two parts together.
Overall, this book is nowhere near up to the standard of writing or research of Hopkirk's other books. The bibliography is scant, and there are no notes. There are not even citations for books referenced in the text, such as that by Vdim Chaikin, mentioned on page 389. This book was a big disappointment, especially since the material has so much potential. The material deserves better treatment, and Hopkirk has shown that he is capable of doing so. Too bad.
Readers interested in this period of history are referred to Wynn's recently released Persia in the Great Game: Sir Percy Sykes Explorer, Consul Soldier, Spy.
This is a coffee table book, which means that it is as beautiful to look at as it is hard to read. In many ways it also reflects the expedition that it reports on, in that it is big, over-blown, expensive, full of things of marginal importance, yet contains a core which is wonderful.
Surrounded by largely superfluous commentaries written by others, poetic quotes from seemingly everyone who ever wrote about mountaineering, and photographs that would be at home in National Geographic (but precious few of which relate specifically to the climb in question), lies a well written and personal account of one of the mile-stone ascents of Everest. On cutting through the editor's extravagance, one has an account of the 1963 first ascent of the West Ridge of Everest by Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld, and their subsequent descent via the South Col route. Up to this point there had been 10 ascents via the South Col and South East Ridge, and 3 via the North Col and the North East Ridge. These were the only two routes that had been attempted. Thus, this climb not only pioneered a new route, thereby setting off a whole new era in Everest climbing, but was the first traverse of the mountain.
That they actually made it was a triumph of will both on the mountain and off. They were part of a huge American expedition that included 19 US climbers, a British transport officer, 47 Sherpas, over 900 porters, and 27 tons of material. In putting the expedition together, the leader, Norman Dyhrenfurth, made a Faustian bargain. Having taken so much money, they had to succeed. Putting an American on the summit was more important than any mountaineering considerations. They had originally set out to do the "hat trick" of ascending Everest, Lhoste and Nuptse. The value of this, in mountaineering terms, was minimal since all three had already been climbed. But very rapidly, the expedition resources were focussed on the far less ambitious objective of getting someone onto the summit by the established South Col / South-East Ridge route, which they accomplished with Jim Whittaker making the first US ascent of Everest.
Amidst this circus, there was a small group, the "West Ridgers" who felt that simply climbing the mountain by the "milk route" would prove nothing and was an unworthy challenge. Hence, they fought for minimal resources and pushed the initiative to do the West Ridge. This expedition within an expedition was as lean and mean as the larger initiative was bloated, and that and how they succeeded is one of the great stories of the mountain, and it is well told in this book, if you can just cut through all of the surrounding glitz (for which I fault the editor, not Hornbein).
Finally, without diminishing the importance and accomplishment of pioneering this route, it is worth noting that it was not the West Ridge in the purest sense. First, they got onto the ridge from the Western Cwm, while the ridge proper begins at the Lho La. Thus, they bypassed the lower section. Second, they deviated from the ridge further up, traversing onto the North Face and ascending via "Hornbein's Couloir". But by taking a bold new route, the raised the bar and followed the fundamental rule of true mountaineering, which states that if you are going to climb a mountain that has been climbed before, you must improve on the previous ascents. That they certainly did, by a long shot. The West Ridge integrale was finally done in 1979 by a large Yugoslavian team led by Tone Skarja.
This is the fourth edition of this book to appear, and it was put out as part of The Mountaineers Legends and Lore series in to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the climb - one of the primary landmarks of American alpinism. It includes a forward by John Krakauer - a close friend and frequent climbing partner of Hornbein. It also includes a new preface by Hornbein, as well as the prefaces to all of the previous editions. For the new material added, as well as the new illustrations and photographs included, it is very much worth reading/acquiring, even if you already have the 1st edition.
This is a remarkable book, well written, an amazing story, and an extremely interesting expedition in terms of how it was conducted. It is a first person account of the unsuccessful 1953 American attempt on K2. Each chapter is credited to a specific author, most by Houston or Bates, but with a chapter each by Robert Craig and George Bell.
To call this expedition unsuccessful is probably wrong. While they did not reach the summit, what they did in their efforts to rescue a sick climber and survive 10 days above 25, 000 feet, in horrendous weather, is far beyond any summit in terms of human achievement.
The leader of the expedition was Charles Houston, who had led the first American expedition to K2 in 1938, and whose experience with Tilman in climbing Nanda Devi in 1936, and the Nepal reconnaissance in 1950 clearly influenced the style of the expedition, which is interesting to contrast with that of the British on Everest that same year. First, the expedition rejected the use of supplemental oxygen. The belief was that, as has been previously expressed by Younghusband and Tilman, it was awkward to climb with, caused logistical problems which exceeded the benefit, had serious problems to the climber if it failed, and was not required if the climber was fit and acclimatized.
Also of interest in this expedition was the fact that above Camp III (of a planned 9 camps), the climbers did all of their own portering and cooking. Ortner, for example, makes clear that this was not the norm at the time. Porters were used to carry to base camp, then only 6 Hunza (not Sherpa) porters were trained and used to carry to the lower camps. (That there were ample supplies in the lower camps during the evacuation of the mountain from Camp VIII is testament to how well the climbers performed their portering tasks.) The decision to have the climbers supply the upper camps was driven by Houston's belief that K2 would not afford climbers and porters on the upper mountain, the danger and minimal camping places being key factors in this decision. However, contrary to the common notion that climbers should "save themselves" for the hard climb ahead, he (a doctor who became a leading authority on high altitude physiology) asserted that carrying loads contributed to acclimatization. Given what happened later in the climb, this assertion seems well founded.
A third aspect of this expedition that deserves note is how it contrasts in its dynamic and interpersonal relationships, in contrast with other climbs. The obvious contrast is with the rancour-filled 1975 and 1978 American expeditions to K2 (Whittaker, Ridgeway, Wickwire, Rowell, etc.). One cannot but wonder what would have happened if the interpersonal dynamics of these later expeditions had of been at play in 1953. The second contrast is with the events on Everest in the spring of 1996 (e.g., Krakauer, Weathers). Compare how Gilkey was treated by his team-mates in 1953 to how Weathers was treated by his in 1996. See Simpson for a good essay on the related ethics. See also Schoening's climbing diary.
As an aside, another ironic link between the 1953 expedition to K2 and Everest in 1996 is that Pete Schoening was a participant in both (although he had to abandon the Everest climb early due to acclimatization problems). This is the man whose spectacular belaying held 5 falling men, plus one injured man, thereby saving all from certain death.
This is the official account of the first expedition to Everest, and includes chapters from a number of the expedition members, including Mallory and Wheeler. The expedition was by a British team led by Howard-Bury, and was to the north side of the mountain, approached from Tibet. As the first expedition to the mountain, the objective was to do a reconnaissance, rather than attempt a summit (although Mallory was hoping for the latter, regardless). The expedition was a success in a number of ways. First, they made a good reconnaissance of the mountain and identified a route, via the North Col, that looked feasible. Second, they (Wheeler) found the entrance to the East Rongbuk Glacier which would provide future expeditions a good route to the base of the North Col. Third, they were able to ascend to the top of the North Col (Chang La), and establish that this part of the route was feasible. The book is a treasure.
This is the narrative of the travels of two French Lazarist priests, Abbé Joseph Gabet and Abbé Evariste-Regis Huc who traveled in central Asia, including a stay in Lhasa, during the period of 1844-46. This is a rare account of Lhasa in the 19th century, since Huc and Gabet were the first Europeans to get to Lhasa since Manning, in 1811-12, and the last to get there (I believe) until the Younghusband expedition of 1904-5.
This is a short companion to Hunt's The Conquest of Everest. It is a photo essay that serves as a pictorial history of the climb. It has a number of interesting photos and diagrams. The text of the volume is also much less formal and rigid than that in the companion account. This little book is definitely worth seeking out if you are interested in Everest, in general, or the 1953 British expedition, specifically. Also, see Alfred Gregory's Everest, a more recent publication of photos by the expedition's official photographer. This is a larger format volume which has been published more recently and therefore has better reproductions.
This is an account of the first ascent of Everest written by the expedition's leader, John Hunt. It is an interesting, but somewhat dry account. It reads like a report by a senior military staff officer, which is what it is. While it lacks the passion of the writing of Terray or Messner, it is solid and compelling nevertheless. The same matter-of-factness that makes some of the prose less than gripping, also gives the reader appendices that provide a great sense of the details and logistics of such an expedition. Contrast the chapter by Hillary on the final stage of the ascent in this book with his treatment of it in his autobiography. The latter is far more frank and it makes for interesting reading when the two are read back-to-back. In addition, see Noyce's classic South Col for a wonderful and personal account of this expedition. Finally, also read the account in Unsworth, which discusses issues not covered in the first person accounts, such as the problems due to the treatment of the Sherpas at the beginning of the expedition (as Unsworth states, perhaps Hunt's one big mistake.)
The autobiography of the leader of the 1953 Everest expedition.
A collection of 11 accounts excerpted from the writings of Noyce (2), Finch, Whymper, Winthrop Young, Shipton, Brown, Smythe, Buhl, Brasher, Hunt and Haston & Scott.
Annotation to come.
As co-sponsor, The Times of London (represented on the mountain by Morris) had an exclusive on the story of the 1953 British expedition. However, a number of competitors tried to break its monopoly. One such interloper was Ralph Izzard, who was working for the London Daily Mail. This is his account. Rather than cover the story from Kathmandu, as did most journalists, Izzard trekked up to base camp. However, he stayed for less than a day, and this was right at the start, when the expedition had just started to work in the ice fall.
This book is far more about Izzard’s trek than it is about the Everest expedition. But it does provide a well-written description of the country, and the conditions along the way. As well, traveling with a very small support team, his comments on his porters are better than most. There is, as seems standard for many books of this period, the inevitable chapter on the yeti, (Izzard argues for its existence). But there is also some good discussion about the post-expedition politics that surrounded Tenzing, the claims on his nationality and the arguments about his role in the climb (ranging from who summited first, to his dragging Hillary to the top).
The book is very readable. For someone wanting to know about the climb, it is not of interest. But for those curious about Nepal, its people, the route to base camp, and conditions at the time, it is a worthwhile account written by an experienced and sensitive writer.
For correspondence of Jacquemont, see Phillips (1936).
Annotation to come.
As the sub-title makes clear, this is an account of the first five women to summit K2: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Liliane Barrard, Julie Tullis (all 1986), Chantal Mauduit (1992), and Alison Hargreaves (1995) [1, 2]. (All but Rutkewicz and Mauduit died on their descent of K2. Rutkewicz died in 1992 on Kangchenjunga and Mauduit in 1998 on Dhaulagiri).
I have mixed feelings about this book. There is no question that Jordan is an excellent writer and journalist, and by compiling a number of disparate stories along a particular theme, she is following a well-established tradition in the literature. For those who want a good condensed version of these stories, without going through the rather extensive literature that she used as sources, then this is an excellent volume. The stories are interesting and well written.
As synthesis and summary, Jordan has done a good job, especially in terms of some of the material that is not in English yet, such as about Rutkiewicz.
But nevertheless, there is an aspect of this book that I found unsatisfactory. It has to do with two things: her seemingly pulling punches as a journalist, and her not following through enough (to my taste) in terms of any strong editorial stance around her theme. The two are not unrelated.
So, the things that link the book’s protagonists are (a) that they are women; (b) K2; (c) they all died in the mountains. Beyond just telling their stories, the main thing that Jordan really synthesizes from what she writes about is that these women got to the mountain having less high-altitude experience than most men there. And, as a secondary theme, she points out instances of double standards, such as Rob Hall’s condemnation of Mauduit needing to be aided on Everest, ignoring his own earlier rescue on K2.
I guess that I wanted more, and furthermore, believe that there is more there – things that Jordan either didn’t find, or chose not to write about. First, amongst her five women, there is one who simply does not belong with the others as a climber: Julie Tullis. She may have been a wonderful person, but when you look at Alison Hargreaves’ solo routes in the Alps, or the routes that were done by Wanda Rutkiewicz, for example, she was nowhere near their standard. Which then begs the question, what the hell was she doing there? Here is someone who came a hair’s breath from killing both herself and rope-mate (more on him in a moment) when she fell coming down off of Broad Peak, and then goes right on up K2 and does the same thing. Except this time it ends up with her death.
So here is the answer, as best as I can figure. She was there because she was with Kurt Diemberger. So now, let’s look at him. If he is the great experienced man of the mountains that he is generally made out to be, then what the hell was he doing taking her up there? Especially after what happened on Broad Peak? What the hell was wrong with him? Oh yes, it was “their mountain”. I read that in his book too. To me, her account is too close to Diemberger’s, without enough questioning for my taste. Where is Jordan, the hard-nosed journalist in this?
The next thing that struck me was this: why was it OK to talk about the sex life of Rutkiewicz and Mauduit, and not of Tullis and Hargreaves? Is it because the latter still have kids alive who would read it? For a journalist of Jordan’s stature I find it strange that she never questions what the hell Tullis’ husband was thinking letting his wife head off with another man. Were they both just dazzled by his fame, such as it is, or what? And why is it that nobody who has ever written about this story has ever spoken about the nature of the Diemberger-Tullis relationship? Excuse me if I find it really hard to understand this being ignored in a book that is built around the theme of women on K2 and their subsequent deaths.
Likewise Alison Hargreaves? There is no mention about her having any relationship while at base camp. The question is not addressed one way or the other, but as they say, stories get around (although not all are true or reliable). Again, I would have expected that this be addressed one way or the other, since if she was in a relationship that could have influenced her deciding to try again, it is relevant to the story – a woman’s story – so significant to the theme. So, again, I would have thought that the question needed to be asked and answered, one way or the other, and not just ignored. But as with Tullis, is it that it was answered but not written about because there were kids left behind? I may be being too picky, but I have the sense that Jordan chose to hold back, and I think that her story could have been better had she not done so, and she could have done so while still being sensitive to those left behind.
Jordan is a talented writer, and her book is a good read. By pushing a little harder he book could have been outstanding, but even as it is, it is better than most.
Annotation to come. See also Crowley's autobiography, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.
Kenneth Kamler is one of the doctors who was on Everest in the spring of 1996, and treated Beck Weathers and Makalu Gau, among others. This is an infuriating book in that it has neither an index nor table of contents, something that is incomprehensible in this age of word processors. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come. This is a rerelease of the original 1935 book. A new edition was released in 2009.
Subject is self explanatory. Annotation to come once I have properly read, which cannot be soon enough.
Annotation to come..
Detailed annotation to come. This is an account of the second American expedition to K2, led by Fritz Wiessner in 1939. The attempt was marred by a weak team in both the technical and collaborative sense. Wiessner performed extremely well as a climber, but he was the leader, something hard to do when you are out in front. The expedition was marred by the first deaths on the mountain, those of the American Dudley Wolfe, and three Sherpa, Pasang Kikuli, Phinsoo and Kitar. Wolfe's remains were found by Jennifer Jordan and Jeff Rhoades in 2002 on a remote stretch of the Godwin-Austin glacier at the base of K2. That was the first that had been seen of him since 1939. The remains of Pasang Kikuli were found in 1993, but no trace of the other two Sherpa have been found. (Source: article by Jordan & Rhodes in The American Alpine Club E-News: July 2002.) See also Jennifer Jordan's (2010) The Last Man on the Mountain: The Death of an American Adventurer on K2.
This is the narrative of a Japanese Buddhist monk, Ekai Kawaguchi. He was a scholar interested in translating Buddhist texts into Japanese from Tibetan. So, in 1897 he left Japan, and then spent a year in Darjeeling, studying Tibetan. He then traveled through Nepal, around Mount Kailas, and on to Lhasa. There he joined the monastery in Sera. During his time in Tibet he assumed the identity of being Chinese. When his true identity was discovered, he was expelled.
This book is an important chronicle of Tibet and Lhasa at the time. Few foreigners had been to Lhasa, and even fewer had stayed as long or were as integrated into to culture. And, Kawaguchi's account is the last significant one before the Younghusband invasion in 1904-5. As a result, his descriptions of Tibetan religious life, marriage, trade, military, foreign policy, sanitation, etc., are all the more interesting and significant.
This is an important history of the first Anglo-Afghan war (1839-42), as Kaye had access to the original documents, as well as personal access to many of the protagonists. The interested reader should also see Dalrymple's, Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, the Journals of Lady Sale (I have the 1969 edition edited by Patrick Macrory), Eyre's, The Military Operations at Cabul: The Retreat and Destruction of the British Army, 1842, and Fortescue's volume of related maps.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is a larger book, in size and scope, than Keay's earlier books, When Men and Mountains Meet, and The Gilgit Game. It is also, in many ways, far less satisfying. Part of this may be the scope of the project. As the author says in his introduction, the only way to try and grasp the history of something of this scale is to rely on secondary accounts. In contrast, in the earlier works, Keay was dealing with narrower topics, where he relied on more primary sources which, in my opinion, resulted in far better books. I'm not sure if this is just the nature of the beast, or some reflection on the type of writing that Keay is best suited for. I suspect the latter. Much of the clarity that I have come to expect from Keay was just not evident in this volume. In an attempt to segment different aspects of the story, he jumps forwards and backwards in time. Hence Clive is first introduced post Plassey, then a bit later, appears as a young writer in Madras, before any military experience. While history need not be organized according to strict chronology, jumping around in time requires careful treatment in order not to generate confusion. This is not something that Keay handles well in this volume. The book has other problems, which make its success as a work of history rather limited. First, the index is simply inadequate, at best, and incorrect and sloppy at worst. Repeatedly, when I wanted to jump back and check something that I had read earlier in the book, I found that the index either had no entry for the key word that I was looking for, or the entries given were not accurate. A simple example would be the word "Bombay", which the index has starting on page 134, when in fact, its founding is described, starting on page 130. This is just frustrating, and in the age of computers, hard to accept. The other aspect of the book that I found frustrating, and uncharacteristic of Keay, was the extremely impoverished references. On pages 356-7, Keay talks about Captain Thomas Forrest, and states that "Forrest published an account of his voyage ...." Yet, there is no reference to be found to this publication. Likewise, he discusses a fascinating character named James Flint, who was active in Canton supporting British trade. Yet, there is no footnote or reference that indicates where he got his information, or where one could find out more. This is simply not the standard of research or historical writing that I have come to expect from Keay. Perhaps he was rushed for time, or lost interest. Whatever the reason, the result is a book that is still worth reading, represents a lot of work on his part, but which leave the reader disappointed, and with a sense of missed potential.
See also Wood's, A History of the Levant Company.
See also Edney's, Mapping an Empire. Annotation to come
Annotation to come.
Kellas was one of the pioneer climbers in the Himalaya. Through his expeditions, and articles such as this, he paved the way for British high altitude mountaineering in the Himalaya. He was part of the first expedition in 1921, but died on the trek in to the mountain. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
See Kerr et al (1918) for the discussion resulting form this paper.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come. See also Volume I: The Beginning-1800 and Volume II: 1800-1892.. The maps of these three volumes are now also becoming available on-line, which is fantastic. See: http://www.historicalatlas.ca/website/hacolp/browse.htm
Kerr, M., Freshfield, Lees, T.O., Holdich, T., Swinton, Capt., Taylor, G.I., Grant, Lieut. & Kellas, Dr. A.M. (1918). The Possibility of Aerial Reconnaissance in the Himalaya: Discussion. Geographical Journal, 51(6), 382-389.
A very fascinating commentary and discussion on Kellas (1918).
Think of the guidebook for your local crag, with all of its route maps, descriptions, history of ascents, and other beta. This is that for the whole Everest massif. It is a little known book that has an unbelievable amount of research behind it. The route maps and diagrams are outstanding, and of great value and interest to anyone interested in gaining a better understanding or perspective of the history of climbing on the mountain. Note that the 2nd 2000 edition is enlarged and updated.
This is an abridged and edited version of Curzon's 1892 classic, Persia and the Persian Question. It includes the travel chapters of the original, but omits the chapters on political analysis.
Annotation to come.
Kirkpatrick was sent to Nepal by Lord Cornwallis of the East India Company in 1793 in order to try and mediate between the Chinese and the Gurkhas (who were in control of Nepal at the time). This was in the aftermath of the Chinese intervention following the Gurkha invasion of Tibet. The Chinese had come to Tibet's defense and beaten the Gurkhas back into Nepal, and by the time Kirkpatrick arrived, terms had already been settled. The real objective of the mission was to try and keep Britain and the East India Company on good terms with all of Nepal, China, and Tibet, something that the mission failed to do.
Because of the underlying motivation of trade, Kirkpatrick's account is highly detailed in its description of the Nepali culture, economy, geography and trade at the time. This is one of the key references on the history of Nepal, post contact with Europeans.
I only have this book in the form of a 1969 reprint from Manjusri Publication House, New Delhi.
Annotation to come.
This is on of the best travel books that I have read. It tells the stories of Kobalenko's experiences over the years traveling and exploring - frequently solo - in Canada's high arctic, in particular, in the region around Ellesmere Island. This is no simple recounting of events, however. The trips are interwoven, and the narrative passes from history, to description, and to his thoughts while hauling his sled. In many ways, the book works because the pace and feel of the prose exactly fits and evokes the place that he is writing about. Probably fitting - the intensity with which I read it was only matched by the sense of peace that I had in doing so.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is a compilation of the accounts of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela (1160-1173), John of Pian de Carpini (Giovanni da Pianô Carpine)(1245-47), William of Rubruck (1253-55), and Friar Ordoric (Oderico of Pordenone) (1318-1330), all of whom made pioneering trips to the east.
This is a compelling collection of essays mainly on mountaineering. Included is a wonderful essay on ice climbing, Valdez Ice, and an account of the tragic 1986 season on K2, A Bad Summer on K2. Well written and worth reading.
Next to Herzog's Annapurna, this is probably the most widely read book on mountaineering. It is a first hand account of the events on Everest in the spring of 1996. Krakauer is an excellent writer, and as an experienced mountaineer, is well equipped to give a compelling account. The book, however, is an excellent lesson on how the best writer's version of a story is the one that carries most weight. On reading some of the other accounts, however, one cannot help but question some of Krakauer's opinions and statements. Regardless, this is an excellent read. It just shouldn't be read in isolation.
This is a newer edition of Into Thin Air. It is a hard cover version which has far more, and well chosen, photographs than the original edition. It also has a postscript which addresses many of the arguments made in Boukreev & DeWalt's, The Climb. For me, this edition is more than worth the extra cost for the photographs, alone.
Kropp was one of the climbers on the south side of Everest in the spring of 1996. His expedition was in marked contrast to the "guided tourist" expeditions led by Hall and Fischer. Kropp climbed solo, alpine style, and furthermore, did so by his own version of "fair means", which meant getting to and from Everest from Sweden under his own steam, by bicycle, carrying everything from home that he would use on the mountain. He made no use of porters or any outside help (well, not quite - he had a bit of outside provisioning in order to have the resources for a second summit attempt). He also made his own route through the Khumbu ice fall, rather than use the prepared route. The account is remarkable, and his comments on what went on on the mountain that spring worth reading. The only thing unfortunate about this book is the writing. This is strange, since Kropp was one of the best public speakers that I have heard. I say was, since he was killed in a climb while rock climbing in Washington in December, 2002. He fell and, when 5 pieces of protection pulled out, cratered.
This is the autobiography of one of the great high altitude climbers of the '80s, the Pole, Jerzy Kukuczka. In 1987, he became the second person (after Messner) to have ascended all 14 of the 8, 000 metre peaks. What is key about this is the style in which he did this. In 13 of the 14, all of these ascents were either by new routes or winter ascents. Full annotation to come.
This is a recent study from a Russian scholar that looks at new material that sheds light on the relationship among the 13th Dalai Lama, Agvan Dorjiev, Curzon and Younghusband. Kuleshov's thesis is that Dorjiev was not a Russian agent, and that he has been misrepresented in the literature, a literature that has for the most part not had access to Russian archives. However, it is worth reading Andreyev's more recent position, which contradicts that of Kuleshov, and is also based on Russian archives. Some of Kuleshov's arguments are pretty weak. He argues, for example, that Dorjiev could not have been a spy, since his trips were not secret. First, this is only partially true: certainly his travels through India were undertaken in secret. Second, being public is no basis for assuming that the agent was not spying. Obvious examples include Younghusband's The Heart of a Continent, which documents his trip across Central Asia, a trip that clearly was for the purpose of collecting intelligence. Likewise, the trips of the Pundits were published (Waller, 1990; Stewart, 2006), and yet these again, were clearly intelligence gathering expeditions.
On the other hand, he makes some excellent points. In particular, he argues that the fact that in 1904 the Tibetans negotiated the Lhasa Convention with Younghusband, alone, without Chinese interference, is a strong indication that the Chinese (and the British) considered them independent. Furthermore, he argues that the Peking Convertion of 1906 was the result of Chinese pressure to reestablish their power.
See also Snelling's 1993 biography of Dorzhiev, Buddhism in Russia.
For some commentary, see:
This volume of The Mountain World is mainly dedicated to 17 essays on the Swiss attempts on Everest in 1952. In this regard, see also Forerunners to Everest, Tenzing'sTiger of the Snow, Roch's Everest 1952, andEverest: The Swiss Expeditions in Photographs. The volume also has essays on expeditions to Bolivia, Peru, and North-East Greenland.
Includes an account of the Italian first ascent of K2.
This is a chronicle of expeditions to the Himalaya between 1940 and 1955. In French. Annotation to come.
This is a supplement to the previous entry.
This is a recent memoire by Lino Lacedelli, who along with Achille Compagnoni, made the first ascent of K2 in 1954. They were part of an Italian expedition led by Ardito Desio. This expedition was especially controversial. To cut to the chase, this volume finally confirms that Bonatti was essentially correct in what he wrote in his The Mountains of my Life, and that Desio's account, as told in Ascent of K2: Second Highest Peak In the World, was not. Despite all of the (self) justification for Lacedelli's silence expressed in this current book, his silence with respect to Bonatti is more than a little hard to understand, much less forgive.
Furthermore, many of his arguments and justifications are weak, at best. For example, the explanation given for why they continued to wear their oxygen masks while climbing, despite the tanks being empty, simply does not hold up to scrutiny. What is argued is that Hornbein and Unsoeld did the same thing on Everest. A glance at Hornbein's 1966, Everest: The West Ridge, will make clear that they did not climb carrying empty tanks and wearing mask, something that, when I double checked with Tom Hornbein personally, he confirmed, and added that the thought of doing so would be absurd.
So, it is good that Lacedelli kind of came clean. But there is still too much self-justification in this volume for my taste. Readers interested in what is hopefully that final chapter in this sad saga are highly recommended to read Marshall's 2009 volume, K2: Lies and Treachery.
A study which has great relevance today in terms of understanding issues around the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Annotation to come.
This is one of the standard texts on the history of the relationship among British India, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. It is a highly revised version of an earlier (1960) edition, Britain and Chinese Central Asia; The Road to Lhasa, 1767 to 1905. This revised edition takes into account the opening of British records from post 1905. Annotation to come.
Landon, Perceval (1905). The Opening of Tibet - An Account of Lhasa and the Country and People of Central Tibet and of the Progress of the Mission Sent There by the English Government in the Year 1903-4. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co.
Landon was the correspondent for the Times during the Younghusband mission to Lhasa in 1903-4. This is a firsthand account largely written in the field in Tibet. Definitely worth reading for anyone interested in this piece of history.
See also Younghusband's India and Tibet, and Fleming's Bayonets to Lhasa for more information. As well, look at the parallel account, The Unveiling of Lhasa, by Edmund Candler, who was the corresponded for the Daily Mail.
Landor, A. Henry Savage (1899). In the Forbidden Land. An Account of a Journey into Tibet Capture by the Tibetan Llamas and Soldiers, Imprisonment, Torture and Ultimate Release brought about by Dr. Wilson and the Political Peshkar Karak Sing-Pal. 2 Volumes. New York & London: Harper Brothers.
This is an account of the travels and "adventures" of one of the biggest buffoons ever to set foot in Tibet. It is wonderful to read just for the sense of the times and what it says about the public's appetite for vicarious experience. Savage Landor was a very popular writer in his time. Unfortunately, any critical reader can see that his accounts are much exaggerated, shall we say. How much is evident in the discussion of his travels and claims found in Longstaff's This is my Voyage and a wonderful chapter in Allen's A Mountain in Tibet.
Lawrence, John (1990). Lawrence of Lucknow - A Story of Love. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Annotation to come.
This is a biography of Willi Unsoeld, including coverage of Unsoeld's first ascent of Everest's West Ridge with Tom Hornbein in 1963 (For an excellent first person account of this climb, see Hornbein's excellent Everest: The West Ridge). I found it interesting reading, since I find the whole American climbing culture at that time kind of surreal. Anything that helps understand the context better is appreciated. (This is a case where Ortner's book is valuable, since she explains a lot of the behaviours in anthropological terms, as cultural phenomena.) On the other hand, I have trouble trusting the characterization of Unsoeld that emerges. Knowing Tom Hornbein, I cannot reconcile the character in this book with the person Tom describes. The fact is, I trust Tom more. He had his life at stake in his jugement of character. There is a paperback edition of this book issued by Quill/William Morrow, of New York.
See also the more recent biography of Unsoeld by Roper (2002), Fatal Mountaineer
This is an account of the German team that were part of the 1966 epic Eiger Driect climb. Since this account has only appeared in German, most English language readers have relied on Gillman & Haston (1966) for their understanding of the climb. This changed in 2015 with the release of Gillman & Gillman (2015), which revisited the story, this time making use of this German account of Lehne and Haag, multiple interviews and other research. However, this volume is still worth obtaining - even if you don't read German - due to the photographs that are included.
This is an edited anthology of first person accounts from expeditions to Everest. It begins with Noel's 1913 trip to the region, and has one or more pieces from pretty much all of the important expeditions up the finding of Mallory's body in 1999. There is a good general introduction at the start, and brief introductory paragraphs for each of the 32 selections. There are also a number of interesting appendices and an excellent bibliography - all in an inexpensive pocket book. Value for money, this is one of the best ways to get a first person overview of the mountain. See also the anthology by Gillman (1993).
Littledale, St. George R. (1896). A Journey Across Tibet From North to South and West to Ladak. The Royal Geographical Journal, VII(5), 453 - 483. Reproduced with copies of three large format maps and Introduction by Nicholas and Elizabeth Clinch, San Francisco, 1994.
This is an account of a little known expedition in 1894-5, from Turkistan, through Kashgar, Yarkand and Chechen, through Tibet from the north, to within 45 miles of Lhasa, the closest that any Europeans had been to the city since Manning, in 1812, and until the Younghusband expedition, in 1905. The protagonists, Mr. & Mrs. Littledale, their nephew, and their dog, are as interesting as they have been unknown. The good news is that their obscurity is hopefully at an end, with the publication of a biography by Elizabeth and Nicholas Clinch, which appeared in 2008. To get yet another perspective, the reader is directed to the outstanding autobiography of one of their main servants on the expedition, Rassul Galwan's 1923, Servant of Sahibs, (which is absolutely worth the effort of tracking down). When the expedition was finally turned back by armed Tibetans, they beat a westerly retreat, with a very sick Mrs. Littledale, to Ladak.
Longland, John L. (1940). Caught in an Everest Blizzard. In Sir Alan Cobham (Ed.). Tight Corners: Tales of Adventure on Land, Sea and in the Air. London: Allen & Unwin.
This is an essay by J.L. Longland, who was a member of the 1933 British Everest expedition, contained in a collection of stories of true-life adventures by a number of authors.
For me, this is one of the classics of the literature, along with Smythe's Camp Six, Terray's Conquistadors of the Useless, and Noyce's, South Col, for example. It is the climbing biography of one of the great British explorer/mountaineers of the early 20th Century. I first came across Longstaff when reading Shipton and Tilman's accounts of their expeditions to Nanda Devi, since they referred to his pioneering exploration in the area.
This book covers his experiences in the Garhwal, around Nanda Devi, as well as the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Spitzbergen and Greenland. There is also (suprisingly brief) coverage of his participation in the 1922 British Everest expedition. On the other hand, there is a great chapter on his experiences climbing in Canada. The writing is fantastic. Some of his descriptions boarder on poetry. And while the scope of the man's climbing and exploration career is inspirational, the book goes beyond that. Like some of the other men of his time, like Tilman, Younghusband, and Shipton, Longstaff was multidimensional. Besides climber and explorer, he was also an intense naturalist, geographer, and scholar. There was a balance between the physical and the intellectual. There is also a sense of time. For example, this "naturalist" thought nothing of shooting three grizzlies for sport, something that raises eyebrows today, but not then. But for me, history has more to do with learning about how people thought, rather than simply what they did, and by this measure, this book is wonderful history.
Extremely well read, it is clear that Longstaff's trips were thoroughly researched. And often this comes out in the book in interesting ways, such as his following up on some of the geographical questions posed by Younghusband's early trip through the Karakoram, his debunking of some of the outlandish claims of Henry Savage Landor, and his case against some of the first "discoveries" of the Swede Sven Hedin. (For more on this, since Longstaff played a larger role in the Hedin case than he lets on in this book, I highly recommend reading Allen's, A Mountain in Tibet.)
The only thing that is somewhat frustrating (for me, at least) is that he has organized the book by region, rather than chronologically, which results in things that happen in late chapters actually occurred before things that you read about several chapters prior. The book has some wonderful photographs and maps, that help establish a sense of place, and establish a context for the text. It is highly recommended.
Annotation to come.
A recently released volume of the correspondence of George Lowe during the 1953 British Everest expedition.
A volume of photographs released as part of the 60th anniversary of the 1953 British Everest expedition.
A recent biography of Bentley Beetham (1886-1963), a member of the 1924 British Everest Expedition.
This is a relatively recent biography of Alexander Burnes. It is not a serious history book, in the sense that it does not have detailed references, nor go into the details of the historical background of the story. However, it is a very readable, relatively brief, account of Burnes's remarkable life. In terms of his treatment of his subject, the book falls into two parts. The first two thirds deal with Burnes's travels to the Punjab and Bokhara. In this part of the book, Lunt essentially describes the trips, and his editorial comments are largely restricted to emphasizing how Burnes's ability to adapt to the ways of the land in which he was traveling were remarkable for the times, and were likely the main reason that he succeeded where others failed. The final third of the book has to do with Burnes's role in Kabul during the lead-up to the first Anglo-Afghan war. Here, Lunt goes beyond the "reporting" style of the previous section, and provides far more critical analysis. This is hardly suprising, and is pretty much demanded by the events. While I wished for more detail, and better references in this section, it was reasonably well handled. The book is well worth reading.
Biography of the wife of George Macartney, who was the British representative in Kashgar from 1890-1918. The book covers the period from 1898, when she married Macartney in the UK and moved to Kashgar, until she left with the children in 1914. (He left in 1918.) For additional background, see Skrine & Nightingale's Macartney at Kashgar.
This is an engaging, well written account of Josiah Harlan, an American adventurer whose life served as the model for Kipling's, The Man Who Would be King. While he was alive up until recently, Harlan has been considered in rather poor light. See, for example, the portrait of him in Grey (1929). This 2004 volume is less critical, while still being candid about his character. What he did was remarkable, and that he survived is almost more so. MacIntyre based his book on Harlan's papers, whose existance/location was not previously known, much less referenced. Hence, this is certainly the best documented source on Harlan, and one well worth reading.
Annotation to come.
This is a book about Turkistan written by a British diplomat, who visited the region in the 1930's. It is sort of a travel book, but also a history of the region. But what is best are the photographs, some colour, that are included in the volume. If you want to put a face to Bokhara, Merv or Samarkand, or the surrounding landscape, so as to better be able to visualize the events that you have read about, this is a great place to start.
This is an edited volume of miscellaneous writings. I have it because it contains a 3-part essay, "Up the Himalaya" by W.W. Graham, pp 18-23, 97-105, 172-178. Graham was the first person from Britain to climb recreationally in the Himalaya. See also his essay in Thomson, et. al's, From the Equator to the Pole.
An early history of Afghanistan that is good at clarifying the relationships among the various Afghan leaders and families.
This is a reissue of the diaries of Lady Sale, covering her time in through the period of the 1st Anglo-Afghan War: Sale, Lady Florentina (1843). A Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan. London: John Murray. The first-hand account is the stuff of movies, and the supplemental material by Macrory greatly helps set the events in context for those not already steeped in the history. For example, Appendix one is Doctor Brydon's first hand account of his solo escape - an escape that was intentionally permitted by the Afghan leaders in order that someone be able to tell the tale of what happened to the rest. Appendix II is likewise value in that it consists of a dictionary of terms found not only in her account, but the literature of the time. Finally, Appendix III provides a list of the Civil an Military Officers killed during the skirmishes leading up to, and during the retreat from Kabul.
The interested reader should also see Dalrymple's, Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, Eyre's, The Military Operations at Cabul: The Retreat and Destruction of the British Army, 1842, Kaye's History of the War in Afghanistan , and Fortescue's volume of related maps.
I have yet to read the first biography of Tilman by Anderson, High Mountains and Cold Seas: a Biography of H. W. Tilman, so it is difficult to comment on why a second one was warranted, other than there being some new correspondence that was available. However, having read much by and about Tilman, this biography did not overly impress me. In some ways Madge does provide a balanced and sometimes critical view of his subject. However, he declares his position even in the title, that Tilman was hero. Now, in many ways it is true that Tilman was a remarkable man. Arguing the contrary would be hard, based on his climbing, exploration or sailing history. Having said that, Madge does not succeed in conveying to the reader some of Tilman's stronger traits, such as his humour, nor his negative ones.
On the negative side, the literature has made much of Tilman's close and respectful relationship with his Sherpa. Madge is no exception. Yet what happens when one looks at this a bit more closely. In his book, Tigers of the Snow, Neale goes into some detail about this, especially as regards his Nanda Devi expedition, where one of the Sherpa, Kitar, died. Neale points out that Kitar had been sick for a while, but there certainly was no indication that any of the sahibs, including (especially) Tilman, were willing to risk the success of the expedition in an effort to evacuate him. The basic question is this: if it had of been one of the sahibs, such as O'Dell, Houston, or Tilman who had been sick, would they have behaved the same way? If not, how does one justify repeating the assertion that to Tilman, the Sherpa were equals on the expedition? Even without taking a position on this, there is a serious issue here. And Kitar did die. But it would be easy to miss this, since Madge devotes all of 7 words to it in the entire book, "One, Kitar, died at the base camp." (page 98).
I confess that I liked Tilman much better before reading this biography than after. But I also have a feeling, having read much of Tilman, that Madge missed a lot of the man. I'm not sure what that means, other than the biography left me unsatisfied. Some of this is Tilman, and expectations that I had build up. But I think that a lot was Madge.
This is an English translation of a French language biography of Tenzing that was written shortly after his ascent of Everest. In is based on extensive interviews. See also Tenzing's autobiographies, the first with the help of Ullman, Tiger of the Snow, and the second with Barnes, After Everest. As well, see Norgay and Coburn's Touching My Father's Soul, Tashi Tenzing's Tenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest=, and the most recent biography of, Douglas' Tenzing: Hero of Everest.
This is an account of the trip taken by the French woman Ella Maillart and the English writer Peter Fleming from Peking, overland, through Tibet, to Srinagar in Kashmir. Annotation to come.
This is a collection of writing by Mallory edited and with an introduction by one of his many biographers, Peter Gilman. The book gets off to a not so promising start in that the title is more than a little mis-leading. This is a collection of Mallory's mountain writing, not "The Complete Writings of..." Among other things, he published a book on the biographer Boswell in 1912. Further annotation to come. For more information on Mallory, see the biography by Gilman, as well as the other books about him referenced in its annotation.
Annotation to come. See also Weatherford, Jack (2004). Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.
This is an abridged and edited version of, Manucci, Niccolao (1906-8). Storia Do Mogor or Mogul India 1653-1708. Translated, with Introduction and Notes by William Irvine, Bengal Civil Service (Retired) - Memember of the Royal Asiatic Society. 4 volumes. John Murray. London. Annotation to come.
This is the 12th in a series of booklets published by the ACC, profiling "people who have made a difference in Canadian Mountaineering." In this case it is my friend Pat Morrow, someone who is as open to teaching others about mountains as the mountains have taught him.
Annotation to come.
One of two books dealing with the impeachment of Warren Hastings. Annotation to come. See also, Carnall & Nicholson (Eds.)(1989). The Impeachment of Warren Hastings: Papers from a Bicentenary Commemoration
This is likely the best source in terms of clearing up the long history of disinformation around the Italian first ascent of K2. The aftermath of this climb resulted in the systematic discrediting (to put it lightly) of Bonatti's role and contribution, and was led by the expedition leader, Desio, and most visibly manifest in the official expedition account, Ascent of K2: Second Highest Peak In the World. Marshall has been active for years arguing the Bonatti's case, and this volume is builds on the case that he first made in print in the 2001 reissue and retranslation of some of Bonatti's key works, in the volume, The Mountains of my Life in which Marshall provided both new translations, as well as a chapter presenting the arguments against the official version of events, and in defense of Bonatti.
This volume is frustrating due to its lack of bibliography, much less index, and its approach is certainly not detached and objective. But the case is supported by new evidence that has emerged since the 2001 volume, such as that the recent account by Lacedelli, K2: The Price of Conquest. Given the extent of the deception, and the impact on Bonatti, the nature of the argument is understandable.
What is interesting is that the author misses evidence that strengthens his case ever further, such as what the liaison officer, Mohammad Ata-Ullah writes about Bonatti in, Citizen of Two Worlds, and the absurd argument made by Lacedelli, inappropriately using Hornbein and Unsoeld's experience on (see Hornbein's, Everest: The West Ridge) to explain why they continued to wear their oxygen masks well after the bottles were empty.
According to Longstaff, the word Himalaya is of Sanskrit origin, and means "Abode of Snow", the title of this book This is the classic history of early exploration and mountaineering in the Himalaya. It covers the period from 1885 to 1953, and includes the travels of Conway, the Workmans and Younghusband, among others. It also has a good introductory section describing the region.
This is a modern reprint of Masson's (James Lewis') 1842 book on his travels.
This is certainly one of the best mountaineering books that I have read in a number of years. It is actually not necessary to qualify that - it is one of the most engaging books, period. It is one which is good candidate, when you are trying to think of a book to give, or recommend, to someone as an introduction to the mountaineering literature. In some ways, there is nothing in the basic plot outline to suggest that might be the case: young climber combines talent with determination, rises quickly to a high level, hooks up with another and does a remarkable (still not repeated) first ascent in Alaska, get down by some miracle of luck coupled with endurance, decides to respond by pushing the envelope even further, almost pays with his life, escapes by some fluke, coupled with unbelievable luck and the help of others, walks away from climbing, only reconnecting 30 years later, finally having come to terms with, and realizing that, those two climbs were remarkable - but too late to reconnect in person with the one with whom they were shared. This entire plot outline is just surrounded by the sirens of mountaineering literature's clichés, like those on Lorelei Rock, drawing the author out of the stream of original, creative prose. And yet, somehow McCartney manages not only to survive their overwhelming temptation, he simply rises to extraordinary heights. This is not only a really good book, it is one which goes well beyond the norm in terms of production value - including colour images and an index. Highly recommended.
A biography of Elizabeth Hawley whose has accumulated the most thorough archive of expeditions to the Himalaya. See Hawley, Elizabeth & Salisbury, Richard (2004). The Himalayan Database. Annotation to come.
A biography of the mountaineer Charles Houston. Well researched and written. More comments to come.
A history of Polish climbers in the post-war years. US Edition published in 2013 as part of the Legends and Lore Series, by The Mountaineers. Annotation to come.
A history of Slovanian climbing post WWII. Annotation to come.
In the sense that every decision involves arriving at some balanced point on the continuum between good and bad, each is also a question of ethics. Viewed thus, given the range of options, without some moral compass, how can one find such a point on the good-bad continuum with any confidence? In a way, this book not only shows how such framing can apply to alpinism, it is a documentary on the calibration of one particular climber's compass - including periodic corrections of declination - and how this directed his career. The climber, Voytek Kurtyka , is a climber's climber - one far less known outside of the inner circles of mountaineering than many. Paradoxically, the reason that this is so is perhaps one of the biggest reasons that he should be better known. That, and the fact that the telling of his already compelling story is so artfully done.
Be it climbing or any other pursuit, our culture is highly biased towards "the hero" mentality. Accomplishments are ticked off in what can be viewed as an attempt to quantify one's status against that of others, gain sponsorship, etc. What this book offers - besides being a compelling climbing book - is an equally compelling and rare demonstration that there are other ways to approach the mountains. The moral is, if what one climbs is driven by aesthetics, interest, style, rather than notoriety, fame, or a check-list, any reduction in fame can be paid back many times over. And while much of the climbing literature is beyond many/most readers, this is something which can be followed by climbers of any level.
Implicitly, who we respect and why are two key criteria as to the calibration of our own compass. For me, yes, I hugely respect Kurtyka for the climbs that he did. But historically, there are a number of others who are in that league. What takes him to the upper reaches of respect is not just what he climbed, but how - and in that regard, that he did those climbs and never lost a partner is one of the things which speaks most loudly to his values and worthiness of respect. Certainly, there are other climbers who have followed the ethical path of Kurtyka . But for that very reason, they typically go about their business quietly. Thus, the ethic which they follow is largely overshadowed by a different kind of "heroics". And, lest I give the wrong impression - about the book, Kurtyka , or my reading, be clear: the protagonist is portrayed as human, flaws and all. While one might laud the ethics underlying decisions in the mountains does not ignore the challenges, and resulting decisions made in reconciling family and being in the mountains in the first place, which are quite so well resolved. How one can bring ethics to an inherently selfish craft is a question that is not going to be resolved any time soon, much less in this book.
Bringing some balance to the literature makes this book welcome. That it does so with such a worthy example is a bonus. That it is so well told is a gift. It is also a reason that this underlying message may get all the more traction.
McDonald, Bernadette & Amatt, John (Eds.)(2000). Voices from the Summit: The World's Great Mountaineers on the Future of Climbing. Washington DC: Adventure Press, National Geographic Society In Association with the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture.
This is a book that came out of the 25th anniversary of the Banff Mountain Film Festival. It includes essays on the future of climbing and mountaineering by Reinhold Messner, Ed Viesturs, Wade Davis, Sir Chris Bonington, Catherine Destivelle, David Breashears, Greg Child, Leo Houlding, Sir Edmund Hillary, Lynn Hill and 22 others. Full annotation to come.
As a footnote, on his return, McGovern met Easton, who was in Tibet at the time and the meeting in described in Easton's, An Unfrequented Highway. Annotation to come.
An account of the history and exploration of the Tsangpo River. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This issue includes an article by Alison Hargreaves on her ascent of the "Big Six" north faces in the Alpes. It also includes a number of articles celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest, including one by Gippenreiter providing an account of disasterous attempt by the Russian from the north in 1952.
This is Messner's account of the first ascent of Everest without oxygen. See also the account of his partner, Peter Hebeler.
As its title suggests, this volume documents Messner's first solo ascent of Everest in 1980. It does a lot more than this, however. The book goes way beyond providing a predictable day-by-day diary of a climb. It is extremely well researched and written. Highly informative about Tibet, and is as much about climbing as it is about a particular climb.
Annotation to come.
This is an short uneven book that is mainly written in support of Herzog, in the face of recent criticisms, such as those of Roberts (although Roberts is never mentioned). The book also documents a number of other key ascents of Annapurna, including that of Messner and Kammerlander of the N.W. face in 1985. While the book is written in support of Herzog, nevertheless, Herzog does not come off very well. While the book is not well organized and much of it seems quickly written, it is a good compliment to Herzog and Roberts.
Annotation to come.
This is Messner's account of the controversial expedition to Nanga Parbat in 1970, in which his brother Günther lost his life. Like many other expeditions led by Herrligkoffer, this one ended up in legal conflicts, and it is only now that Messner has been able to present his version of things. However, his version of the story is being contested by two of the members of the expedition. An overview of the controversy can be found in an on-line article in Outside magazine. Hans Saler, published a book in June 2003 book, Zwischen Licht und Schatten: Die Messner-Tragödie am Nanga Parbat (Between Light and Shadow: The Messner Tragedy on Nanga Parbat). The other book, Die Überschreitung - Günther Messners Tod am Nanga Parbat. Expeditionsteilnehmer brechen ihr Schweigen (The Traverse: Günther Messner's Death on Nanga Parbat. Expedition Members Break Their Silence), is by one of the other expedition members, and a one-time close friend of Messner, Max von Kienlin. To the best of my understanding (not having read either book - my German being limited), both books suggest that Messner had planned all along to do a solo traverse of the Mountain, and that it was not (as Messner claims) an emergency decision that he made in due to the condition of Günther. Both authors also suggest that the most likely scenario is that Messner may never have taken his brother with him on the traverse, and rather, left him to make his own way back down the way that they had come up. One of the consequences of this is the Messner has sued both authors and tried to get an injunction against the books. A response to the lawsuit brought by Messner against A1 Verlag, Saler's publishers, is available in English on-line.
This is an updated reissue of the original, first published in German in 1989, and in English in 1999. It appears as part of the Legends and Lore series, and includes two additional chapters that did not appear in the previous English edition. Annotation to come.
First published in German in 2015 as, Abstuz des Himmels, this revisit of Whymper's Matterhorn climb takes that form of a morality tale which is as relevant to today as it was at the time. Full annotation to come.
This book is positioned as a biography of Buhl. However, it is not a biography in the normal sense of the term, and the role assumed by Messner and Hofler is more that of editor than author. What they have put together is mainly a compilation of Buhl's own writings, augmented by some short essays by themselves and others. The whole thing is then tied together by means of short linking commentaries.
Somewhat like Messner's Annapurna, the book seems driven more by hero worship than the type of analysis that one would expect in a biography. One example of this is in the treatment of Buhl's ascent of the Eiger. It receives all of about 1/2 a page of coverage. The impression given is given that Buhl saved the day, and along with it, the French team that included Rébuffat. There is a very selective (and misleading) quote from Rébuffat's account, and no questioning as to why Buhl (the speed merchant) was so slow on the face that the French caught him up, why he held on to the lead, or why he went up the mountain without proper equipment. Even Harrer, a Buhl fan, questions some of these things. This "biography" questions nothing.
This volume sheds little, if any, new light on the man than would be gained by reading Buhl's own Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage - The Lonely Challenge. However, if I was going to read only one, I would choose this book. The truly interested will read both. For the rest, this volume is a better introduction.
I found the climbing diaries of the Nanga Parbat ascent more interesting than the account in Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage. And while an account of the Eiger ascent is missing, the inclusion of Buhl's final Broad Peak expedition is welcome. Up to recently, Diemberger's Summits and Secrets - which those interested should also read- was the easily available account of Buhl's last days. However, despite some issues with the book, Richard Sale's 2004 book, Broad Peak, is essential reading for anyone who is interested in this expedition. A shorter hisory of the Broad Peak expedition on which Buhl died can be found in my,Broad Peak and the 1957 Austrian Karakoram Expedition.
Finally, what is nice about this volume by Messner and Höfler is how it is illustrated. Not being familiar with the mountains around Innsbruck, for example, one of the things that I found frustrating in reading Buhl's book was not being able to visualize the faces that he was describing. This is something addressed by the photographs in this volume (although, in this era of computer imaging, it would have taken so little effort to draw the routes on the photos, rather than give some vague verbal description). Buhl deserves a good biography. This book's is not it. But it is still a book worth reading.
This is a recent general history of the "Great Game", and the area surrounding northern Indian sub-continent, from about 1812 to 1990. It addresses the maneuvering for position and influence in the area where the empires of England, Russia and China met. The title of this book, Tournament of Shadows, comes from the term coined by the Russian Count Nesselrode, to describe this struggle. As a general history, this is a good companion to Hopkirk's, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. The period that it covers extends beyond that of Hopkirk, and it covers the period of American involvement in Tibet. It also complements a number of other books in my collection, including all of the books by and about Sir Francis Younghusband (I have several of these, but The Heart of a Continent, is a good place to start), Morgan's Ney Elias. Explorer and envoy extraordinary in High Asia, and John Keay's excellent history, When Men and Mountains Meet.. Given the happenings of the past year, the history of this region is all the more relevant and worth understanding. These books do an excellent job of laying a foundation for this.
This is an account of the travels in 1946 of the French physician, André Migot, through Tibet in an (unsuccessful) attempt to reach Lhasa.
This is an introduction to the lives of five early woman explorers in Tibet; Nina Mazuchelli, Annie Taylor, Isabella Bird Bishop, Fanny Bullock Workman and Alexandra David-Neel. This book was reissued in 2014, with an introduction by Arlene Blum, as part of the Legends and Lore Series by Mountaineers Books, Seattle. Note, however, that in the reissue, all of the maps and most of the photos found in the original are omitted. Nevertheless, this book is worth being in print, hence this reissue is welcome. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is an anthology of translations of selected writings by a number of early Chinese travelers, edited and introduced by Mirsky. The period covered spans from 1, 000 BC to the 19th century, and includes the diplomat Zhang Qian (Chan Ch'ien), the pilgrim Xuanzang (Hsüan-Tsang) and Admiral Zheng He,(Cheng Ho).
See also Walker's more recent biography, Aurel Stein: Pioneer of the Silk Road.
In 1969-70 there were three Japanese expeditions to Everest by the Japanese Alpine Club. One in each of the spring and fall of 1969, and one in the spring of 1970. The latter two included a separately funded expedition, the Japanese Ski Expedition, whose objective was to ski down the south side of the mountain from the South Col, on the Everest side of the Geneva Spur. This book is an account of that expedition by Miura, who was the skier on the team. The book is mostly about the planning of the expedition and the march in to the mountain, and is sprinkled liberally with information about his idiosyncratic views on exercise, nutrition, and the personalities and drinking habits of the team. There is actually not very much on climbing, other than to make clear that Miura was not a climber, nor on the skiing, since there actually wasn't very much skiing done.
Having done some speed skiing, Miura's plan was to just run straight down the face with no turns, and have his speed controlled by a parachute. Well, either the parachute was too small, the air too thin, or the speed too high. Whatever the case, it did little good, and he was quickly out of control. He quickly fell, and was extremely lucky that he did not kill himself as a consequence. In many ways, the title of the book, (and film of the same name), should perhaps more appropriately have be called "The Man Who Fell Down Everest."
While a light read and about a not very important or impressive expedition (with some errors, such as what year the expedition took place), the book was relatively interesting, if for no other reasons than the insights of the characters and attitudes of the participants. Interspersed throughout the text are quotes from an ancient Samurai poet / warrior, with whom Miura clearly identified and from whom he took inspiration. Perhaps more revealing was the attitude towards the Sherpa reflected in the book. The expedition cost the lives of 8 Sherpa, including 6 killed in the ice fall in the Spring of 1970. Despite knowing that the ice fall is least dangerous in the early morning while things are still frozen from the night, and despite originally intending to start on that day at 5:00 am, they actually entered the ice fall at 7 a.m., since "it would have been rude" to start before the Japanese Alpine Club team, since they had opened up the route! Perhaps even more revealing is the fact that while Miura talks about how the expedition could not have happened without Sherpa support, and how the high altitude Sherpa were considered part of the climbing team, he does not mention the 6 Sherpa who died in the ice fall by name, nor go to their funeral. But he does name all of the Japanese climbers who were in the ice fall at the time and survived.
As a related footnote, on October 7, 2000, the Slovenian Davo Karnicar claims to have successfully skied from the summit of Everest right down to base camp, including through the ice fall. Based on the information that he has supplied (and not supplied), I believe that his claim is highly suspect.
This book is as frustrating as it is interesting. Elias was one of the great explorers / travelers in the Pamirs, Karakoram and Chinese Turkistan in the second half of the 1800's. He was both a predecessor and inspiration for Younghusband. Yet, little is known about Elias, since the bulk of his travel was undertaken for political purposes. In other words, he was an English intelligence agent who was a player in "The Great Game." Because he is so interesting and so little is available in writing about him, a well researched book about him is more than welcome. Other than brief references to him by Younghusband, for example, this book is pretty much your only option, all of which makes one wish that it was better done.
This is a history book about a traveler, rather than a travel book about the history of an explorer. What I mean by that is that it is written in a more academic style with a focus more on detail and research than fluid readability. This is fine, in fact, welcome. But measured by academic standards, it is also extremely frustrating. Elias was largely a geographer well as traveler, who had a pride in his ability to map and collect knowledge about the places that he visited. Yet, in this book about such a man, the maps are pathetic. They are few and far between, and in cases the names on the maps do not match those in the text (remember that names of places vary over time, as well according to whether one is using the Turki, English, Chinese or Russian version). As well the bibliography is extremely sparse for a work of this type, and there are almost no footnotes that give precise references to key points in the text. But what I really found annoying is that while there is little in print by or about Elias, he did, in fact, write a number of articles in various newspapers (such as the Pioneer), to which the text frequently refers. Yet, in not one case does Morgan give the actual reference, much less reproduce the actual articles in the nonexistent appendices. This is just shockingly poor scholarship, all the more so since he clearly did the research, and had the references. Consequently, the historian or student of the literature who wants to view the primary sources must start from scratch all over again.
Nevertheless, this is the only game in town, it is well researched, and the subject is fascinating. For anyone interested in early travelers in the Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamirs, etc., this book should be part of your core collection. Just meditate before you read it in order to keep the frustration at a manageable level.
Annotation to come. See also the more recent biography by John Lawrence.
This is a reissue of an 1958 book written by the correspondent assigned by The Times of London to cover the 1953 Everest expedition led by Hunt, which saw the first ascent by Hillary and Tenzing. This is not, however, a reworking of Morris' dispatches, nor is it a description of the climb by an outside observer. Far from it. Rather, it is a wonderful portrait of Nepal in the early 50's - of the place, and especially of the people. Morris is an engaging writer. Hillary, Tenzing, Hunt, and the others weave in and out of the Narrative. But the image that results is one of a place and people at a time which in many ways began to be lost as a result of the very same expedition that formed the catalyst to this description. The book was reissued in paperback in (2000) by Key Porter Books. See also Morris' autobiography, Conundrum, below.
This is the autobiography of Morris, who was the correspondent assigned by The Times of London to cover the 1953 Everest expedition (see Coronation Everest, above). Morris was a trans-sexual, who began life as James, and became Jan. The underlying theme of the book is the story of this transition. The book includes a , consequently, rather unique chapter discussing the experience of being on Everest.
This is an autobiography of C.J. (John) Morris who was transportation officer with the 1922 and 1936 expeditions (although the book does not mention the latter). Morris is extremely candid, both about himself, and those around him. In the process, he sheds a lot of light on the times and the character of the participants of these early expeditions. Well worth reading.
This is a small soft-cover volume describing a trek around Kangchenjunga to mark the 100th anniversary of Freshfield & Sella's first circumnavigation. There are no epic climbs or high adventure. This is a travel tale, beautifully illustrated with photos by Pat Morrow, and a fluid text which is punctuated with well-researched historical references. For more information on the authors, see Lynn Martel's, Focused on Adventure: Pat Morrow.
This is an account of Morrow's quest for the "Seven Summits", that is, to be the first person to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents (completed August 5th, 1986). Like climbing all 14 8, 000 metre peaks, this is kind of a "grand slam" of mountaineering. The idea of doing this emerged after Morrow had done Everest in 1982 (only the second Canadian to have reached the summit). He had a head start, since he had already climbed three of them. Besides Everest (Asia), he had also done Denali (North America) and Aconcagua (South America). He also had, as it turned out, competition. This was in the form of the American businessmen, Dick Bass and Frank Wells, whose own quest is described in their book, Seven Summits. Bass finished his version of the Seven Summits before Morrow did his (April 30, 1985). I say version, since Morrow chose Carstensz Pyramid (4, 884 meters/16, 023 feet), located in Papua Indonesia, as the highest mountiain in "Australasia" or "Oceana" , while Bass chose to climb, Kosciusko (2228 metres/7310 feet), the highest mountain in Australia. (Actually, Morrow has also climbed Kosciusko, so when he completed his "7" on August 5, 1986, he also became the first person to climb both versions, as well as the 3rd person to complete Bass' version.) Which are the "real" seven summits? That is a debate for long days stuck in a tent. Suffice that they are different, and that as a mountaineering objective, Morrow's set are the more interesting. Both books are worth reading, as is Seven Summits: The Quest to Resach the Highest Point on Every Continent, edited by Steve Bell. Morrow's book has fantastic photos, and is extremely well written. For more information on the author, see Lynn Martel's, Focused on Adventure: Pat Morrow.
This highly illustrated book exists only as an ebook, specifically designed for
the Apple iPad. It includes personal accounts of two important Canadian
Everest expeditions. The first is the 1982 Canadian National expedition, which took the
South Col route. This was both the first Canadian expedition to Everest, and the first
on which Canadians that successfully summited.
The account is that of Pat Morrow, who joined the team as expedition
photographer, but who performed so well that he was also on the second of two
successful summit teams. His role - not to mention skills - as a
photographer contribute largely to the richness of the book's illustrations.
The second account is of the Everest Light Expedition of 1986 - the second
Canadian expedition to the mountain.
The plan for this expedition was to take the West Ridge Route to the summit.
However, a combination of weather and shrinkage of the team due to illness
resulted in them taking the modified West Ridge Route, pioneered by
Hornbein and Unsoeld in 1963. The account is by
Sharon Wood, who along with DwayneCongdon, successfully summited. In so
doing, Sharon became the first North American woman to summit Everest. For
additional reading on both expeditions, see Patterson
(1990). Two other sources for the 1982 expedition are Burgess & Palmer (1983)
& Morrow (1986).
Purchase information can be obtained here: http://bungalobooks.com/featured-books/everest-high-expectations/itune-links-everest/
This is a biography of Henry Morshead who a member of the 1921 and 1922 Everest expeditions. Morshead an officer of the Survey of India. He went to Kamet with Kellas in 1920 and was the head surveyor on the 1921 Everest expedition. In 1922 he participated as a climber and was badly frostbitten above the North Col. Later, he was posted to Burma, where he was murdered in 1931 (along with Wollaston, one of two members of the 1921 expedition to die this way). This book is sort of three books in one, a biography, a “detective tale” trying to uncover information about Henry’s murder, and a diary of his 1980 trip to India and Burma to try and find out what happened. The book is not that satisfactory on any of these three counts. Much of the diary section is irrelevant to the detective part, and not particularly interesting in its own right. Yes, he met Karma Paul, but his account of this shed little light on his father, and contributes little of interest. As a biography, the book is more a chronology and a scrapbook than what one would normally expect. Perhaps as Henry’s son, the author is too close to his subject. Or, perhaps it is just that he is not a particularly skilled writer or biographer. Perhaps my main disappointment was with the fact that – despite the book’s title - it sheds little, if any, light on why Henry was murdered. That being said, one part of the book, even on its own, makes it worthwhile to the student of Everest: Chapter 10. This contains Henry’s letters from Everest in 1922. These have a degree of candor not found in published accounts at the time. There is a postscript to this book:
I have not been able to find this, so have no idea if it helps bring the book to a more satisfactory end.
Annotation to come. First published in Russian in 1822. There are only two known copies of the first English edition, (1871), Muraviev's Journey to Khiva Through the Turkoman Country 1819-20, Calcutta: Foreign Department Press. The above 1977 edition is the first complete English edition from the Russian text.
Annotation to come. Also see other biography by Prothero, The White Buddhist: The Asian Odyssey of Henry Steel Olcott.
This is a summation and analysis of the attempts on Everest from 1921 to the Swiss expeditions in 1952. Murray was on the Everest Reconnaissance Mission led by Shipton in 1951. The theme of the book is to show how each of the attempts built upon one another and paved the way for eventual success on the mountain.
An autobiography by W.H. (Bill) Murray, who was part of the Everest Reconnaissance Mission led by Shipton in 1951. It was completed just before his death. Annotation to come.
This is a special issue of National Geographic, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mountain’s first ascent. Included is a large format map of the region south of the mountain, Sagarmatha National Park. On the other side of the map is a large aerial photograph of the south-west side of the mountain. What is shown in this photo is available on-line in 3D at:
This is a book which attempts to tell the story of mountaineering from the Sherpas perspective. The centre piece of the book is an account of the German attempt on Nanga Parbat in 1934, which the author argues was a turning point in how the Sherpa perceived themselves, relative to the European mountaineers who employed them. The book includes considerable detail on Sherpa life and customs. However, the reader seriously interested in Sherpa culture is referred to Ortner.
Neame, K. (1955). Alone Over Everest. In Marcel Kurz (Ed.). The Mountain World 1955. London: George Allen & Unwin, 133-141.
An account of the author’s flight around Everest in 1947. While on assignment to take aerial photographs of the area around Kangchenjunga, Neame flew around (not directly over) Everest, taking photographs from the cockpit. Strangely, none of the photos are reproduced here, but four appear (uncreditted) at the start of Shipton's, The Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition, 1951.
This is a comprehensive annotated bibliography of the mountaineering literature. See also Bates', Mystery, Beauty, and Danger.
This is, deservedly, one of the classic travel books. It is the story of two amateurs trekking through the Hindu Kush, attempting a mountain (and nearly succeeding) with minimal support and experience. The "expedition" is a far cry from the military organization and scale of, for example, the Everest expeditions led by Bruce or Hunt. In spirit (if not experience or expertise) it has a lot more to do with the style of Tilman and Shipton. What I like about the approach is the independence that it illustrates, which contrasts with the "hand holding" guided style of today's "adventure travel", most epitomized by the commercial expeditions to Everest (such as described in Krakauer).This is a wonderful read with good photographs.
This is a picture book with accompanying text covering the history, geography, flora and fauna of the Himalaya. Of particular interest is a section, pp 148-157, in Chapter 6, which include a number of colour reproductions of photographs taken by Captain John Noel during the 1924 Everest expedition.
This is a brief account of Noel’s 1913 exploration of the eastern approaches to Mount Everest (see Noel, 1927). This presentation, and the ensuing discussion (Freshfield, et al, 1919) led to the formation of the Mount Everest Committee and the first expedition in 1921. It is interesting in that Noel mentions the potential and value of conducting an aerial survey of the route, following a thread started by Kellas the previous year (Kellas, 1918).
Noel may well be the one who first suggested mounting an expedition to scale Everest.It was at a talk given by him in 1916 that the idea was initiated of the Royal Geographical Society and the Alpine Club forming the Mount Everest Committee, with the objective of scaling the mountain. This book covers his early travels in Tibet and the Himalaya in 1913, and the first two three Everest expeditions, of 1921, 1922 and 1924. He was the photographer on the 1922 expedition and cinemaphotographer in 1924. Hence, the photographs in this volume are outstanding.
This is a collection of photographs by John Noel, many of which have not been previously published. They are mainly from his trips to Everest in 1922 & 1924. There is a web site maintained by the author, based on the Noel collection: www.mounteverest.uk.com
This is only the fourth book that gives a Sherpa's perspective on climbing. (The other three are from the previous generation: the two autobiographies of Jamling's father, Tenzing Norgay, Tiger of the Snow, and After Everest, and Mémoires d'un Sherpa, the autobiography of Tenzing's mentor, Ang Tharkay). Norgay is the younger son of Tenzing, and this is an account of his experience climbing Everest in the spring of 1996 as part of the Everest IMAX film (described by both Breashears and Coburn.)
I confess that I resisted this book at first. I think that I was not a big fan of the IMAX film, and especially how Jamling was portrayed. It was just too staged and precious. The net result was that the whole Bhuddist aspect just felt disingenuous. To its credit, none of this carried over to the book, which I found extremely interesting.
The basic thread of the book is an account of Jamling's experience as part of the IMAX expedition. But interwoven with this are two far more interesting stories. The first of these is a meditation on his father, to and from which the story cuts throughout. The second is a seemingly quite sincere attempt to explain Sherpa culture. Again, this tread is woven into the book from beginning to end. For me, at least, the appreciation of these aspects of the book were greatly enhanced by having read Ortner's book on Sherpa culture. I suspect the reverse would also be true.
This is an autobiography of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa. See also his second autobiography, After Everest. As part of the 1953 expedition led by John Hunt, along with Hillary,, Tenzing was the first to summit Everest. While Tenzing could neither read nor write, he was clearly an exceptional man, not only for his climbing, but for his character and intelligence in general. While his story has been put down on paper by Ullman, his voice and thoughts come through convincingly.
This is clearly a motivated man. He climbed and traveled in Chitral, Kashmir, Garhwal, and Tibet. His finding himself on the top of Everest was also no accident. He had been to Everest 6 times before. He went to the North Side in 1935 with Shipton, 1936 with Ruttledge, 1938 with Tilman; and 1947 with Denman. He then went to the South Side in the spring of 1952 with Swiss team led by Wyss-Dunant, and back again in the autumn on their second attempt led by Chevalley (Dittert et al, 1954).
As Ortner points out, almost all of our history of Himalayan mountaineering comes from westerners, since they were the ones with the skills and means to write the books. From the earlier period, there are only four first person accounts "from the other side, " this one by Tenzing, his second autobiography After Everest, Mémoires d'un Sherpa by Ang Tharkay, and finally the remarkable Servant of Sahibs, written in 1923 by Ghulam Rassul Galwan, who had worked for Younghusband, among others. Due to their scarcity, insights, and perspective, these books make fascinating reading.
What is interesting about this book is that it spends very little time writing about the actual climbing in 1953. Tenzing simply says that others have written extensively about it, so there is no need to cover the details of the expedition, other than to shed light on things that have been neglected. What he does do, which Hunt (perhaps understandably) does not, is discuss not only the issues of conflict between the Sherpa and "Sahibs", but also the repercussions (since many of these caused much controversy under the spotlight that fell on the expedition after its success.) He also talks a lot about the impact of the whole thing on his life, which was significant, given the attention given to the expedition.
Finally, one cannot read this book without being touched by the love that he had for the mountains, and the bond that he shared with those of similar spirit (not the least of whom was Lambert, of the 1952 Swiss team, with whom - despite a language barrier - he clearly had an outstanding bond.) In this there are strong echoes of Rébuffat's fellowship of the rope. For me, this spirit extended beyond the printed page, bonding author to reader.
See also Tenzing's son Jamling's book, Touching My Father's Soul, Tashi Tenzing's Tenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest, Malartic's early biography, Tenzing of Everest,, and the most recent biography, Douglas' Tenzing: Hero of Everest.
This is a second autobiography that covers Tenzing's life after climbing Everest (where the previous autobiography with Ullman, Tiger of the Snow, left off. See also Tenzing's son Jamling's book, Touching My Father's Soul, Tashi Tenzing's Tenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest, Malartic's early biography, Tenzing of Everest, and the most recent biography, Douglas' Tenzing: Hero of Everest.
My edition is signed by Charles Wylie, Jan Morris & John Jackson. Annotation to come.
Edited by his grandson, this recent volume is based on the diaries and sketchbooks created by Edward Norton during the British Everest Expeditions of 1922 and 1924, the latter of which he led and on both of which he set new altitude records.
This is the official account of the 1924 expedition. It includes writings of other expedition members and Mallory's letters, for example. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is one of the classic climbing books. Highly recommended. Noyce was scrupulous in keeping his journal, and this is a great account of a climber's perspective of the trip, from planning and packing right through to the end. My sense is that if one were going to read only one book on the 1953 expedition, this is likely it. It describes not only the march and the climb in, but what one wore, ate, felt, talked about - all written in wonderful to read prose. Being written immediately after the fact, however, the book very much characterizes the expedition as one happy team working together. Consequently, it is nice to balance this account with the shorter but more recent one of Hillary, which is as self critical as it is honest, in terms of some of the interactions and behaviours among the team.
This is a brief (30 page) soft-cover picture book for children. The text is by Noyce, and the images are all drawings by Taylor.
An illustrated volume of Tibetan folk-tales collected and translated by the Intelligence Officer and Chief Interpreter on the Younghusband mission of 1903-04.
O'Dowd, Cathy (1999). Just for the Love of It. Gallo Manor, South Africa: Free To Decide Publishing.
Cathy O'Dowd was the first woman to ascend Everest from both the North and South sides. This book documents these expeditions.
In her first ascent, O'Dowd was part of the controversial South African team that was on the mountain during the infamous storm of 1996. This was the same team, led by Ian Woodall, that received such harsh words from Krakauer, Coburn and Breashears, among others. Along with Woodall, O'Dowd had already written a book describing this climb, Everest - Free to Decide. However, this more recent account is far more forthcoming. Unlike the first book, instead of pretending that the expedition's problems did not exist, this one addresses them straight on. Yes, the perspective is that of O'Dowd and Woodall, and should be read as such, but at least the reader is given something to balance the very strong statements expressed by others.
The book is extremely well written and wonderfully illustrated. I am still trying to reconcile how the same author could have given birth to two books of such different quality. I can only assume that the first one was rushed out without any editorial help or revision.
The South African team has come in for some very harsh criticism and comment. And it has been suggested that they had no business on the mountain. It is hard for an outsider to say much in response. There is too little data, and it is far too easy to be an armchair critic. However, it does seem to me that there was more substance to the team than was generally attributed. After the storm on the South Col in 1996, they descended, regrouped, and went at it again. Then they followed up on the North Side. None of this is black and white, and I think fairness dictates that one should read this book as part of the process of forming an opinion.
This is a hard to find account of the South African expedition to the south side of Everest in the spring of 1996. It is not well written (this is an understatement) and is highly selective in what it includes and leaves out about the South African expedition. Nevertheless, it is really interesting to read, especially given the savage account of the expedition given by others, such as Breashears in High Exposure and Krakauer in Into Thin Air. This book was written as if the South African expedition was the most harmonious, happy, dedicated team that ever climbed a mountain. If other accounts are to believed (and they are all consistent in this point) this was clearly not the case. I suspect that much of the problem with the writing was due to the rush in getting the book out. This is not the case in O'Dowd's later book, Just for the Love of It, which includes a far more candid account of the 1996 expedition, and is night-and-day, in comparison to this book.
While it reads like a fiction thriller, the book is an outstanding account of the 1957 attempt on the Eiger by the accidentally combined ropes of the Italians Corti and Longhi, and the Germans, Northdurft and Mayer. The attempt ended in disaster, with three of the climbers dying. But it also triggered one of the most dramatic international mountain rescues of all time, which resulted in the saving of Corti. What happened, and why, is complicated. Olsen, a former bureau chief for Time, does an excellent job of unraveling the various threads, and demonstrates that one does not have to be a climber to write a classic book on mountaineering. For supplementary information on the climb, rescue and aftermath, see also Terray's Conquistadors of the Useless (which gives his account of the rescue and his part in it) and Harrer's The White Spider which gives an overview of the climb, but also gives more detail on the failed 1958 Austro-German attempt by Raditschnig, Noichl and Brandler (advised by Harrer), to retrieve the body of Longhi from the face.
A study of Sherpa culture through an analysis of the symbols of their rituals. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is one of the more informative books that I have read in a while. Despite the title, it is not really a book on climbing, mountaineering or Mount Everest; rather, it is anthropological study of the Sherpa people. (See also the study by von Fürer-Haimendorf.) Specifically, Ortner examines the influence that climbers and mountaineering have had on Sherpa life and culture since the first expedition in 1921. She gives an excellent overview of the religious, economic, domestic and political structure of the society before the first expeditions, and then traces the impact on these and other cultural aspects of the society up to the present, as a result of the influx of mountaineering. While Ortner personally has little interest or patience for climbing, this is not a biased treatise on how Sherpa culture is being destroyed by the influx of climbers and treckers. Her point of view is as objective as it can be, and it is clear that there are good and bad aspects to the changes that have occurred. This is an excellent source for those interested in Sherpa culture, and in many ways, should be mandatory reading for anyone going to the region on a trek or expedition. But it also sheds good insights into the changes in the culture of the climbers themselves. The writing is not gripping in the sense of a great climbing book, but it is an outstanding and compelling source for those interested in more than a superficial view of the Sherpa people, and the social ecology of climbing.
This is the biography of Nicholas Roerich, who was an important 20th century Russian artist (among other things, he designed the sets for the Russian Ballet's Rite of Spring and Petrushka). Roerich spent over 5 years traveling in the Himalaya and Central Asia, documented in his book Altai Himalaya: A Travel Diary. See also Decter (1989), Nicholas Roerich: The Life and Art of a Russian Master. Fianlly, for those interested in Roerich, there is an excellent museum in NYC dedicated to his work. The museum's web site includes reproductions of a large number of his paintings, biographical infromation, as well as selected writings. Annotation to come.
This book was first published in 1930 under the title, Gulab Singh, by Martin Hopkinson. It is a short book outlining the life of Gulab Singh. It includes a good discussion of the anarchy in the Punjuab following the death of Ranjit Singh, and how the states of Jammu and Kashmir came to remain under Gulab Singh, following the Anglo-Sikh wars. See also Bawa Satinder Singh's, Jammu Fox: A Biography of Maharaja Gulab Singh of Kashmir.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is a recent book on the history and evolution of climbing gear and technique. It is somewhat disappointing in terms of the quality and number of illustrations, but is nevertheless a very welcome addition to the literature. It has a good index. And don't be fooled - it is not just about Everest. The name in the title seems to be for marketing purposes. The book is far more general than that.
For my review of this book for the Canadian Alpine Journal, click here.
This is a small (48 page) booklet which motivates and documents a project whereby the clothing retrieved from Mallory's body was used as the template for making a modern replica that was as faithful to the original as possible - in terms as the actual fibres uses, as well as the pattern. The resulting replica clothing was then tested at both base camp on the north side of Everest (3658 metres) and on the Ronbuk Glacier (4877 metres). The conclusion that the study came to was that the popular impression about the inadequacies of the clothing from the 1920s is greatly exaggerated, and that the layered system that they had was sufficiently warm to summit, and compared favourably with modern clothing in many ways, and in some areas (such as weight) it was superior. The question that arises, however, is how compelling and valid is a test at 4877 metres on the Ronbuk Glacier in terms of coming to conclusions about adequacy on the summit at 8, 848 metres, as well as the additional exposure to wind higher on the mountain. Regardless of the question, the booklet is very interesting in the details of the analysis and reproduction of the clothing, and it is a very nice compliment to Parsons' and Rose's earlier book, Invisible on Everest.
This is a history of Canadians on Mt. Everest up to 1988. It begins with a brief account of the Canadian E.O. Wheeler's participation in the 1921 British expedition. However, the focus is on four Canadian expeditions.
The first is the first Canadian National Expedition in 1982. Patterson, a novice climber, was on the expedition, covering it for the Calgary Herald. However, after the deaths in the ice fall, he did not go above base camp, so covered the climb from there. Partially due to his inexperience in climbing, and partially due to his being removed from the action on the mountain, his account has a certain remoteness, and lack of insight. He is a competent writer, and the account reads well. For a more detailed, yet also flawed account of this expedition, see the "official" account, Everest Canada, by Burgess and Palmer, but also see the accounts of Pat Morrow (1986 & 2012), the expedition photographer, and the second Canadian on the team to summit.
The second expedition covered is the 1986 Everest Light expedition, which was initiated by some of the climbers who left the 1982 expedition (but which included some who stayed), largely with the intent of climbing the mountain in a different, more light weight style. The original plan was to do the West Ridge route, pioneered by the Yugoslavians in 1979, following the ridge from the Lho La right to the summit. But unexpected delays due to weather and conditions caused them to take the less difficult, but still substantial, original variation pioneered in 1963 by Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld, through the Hornbein Couloir; however, the Canadians reached the base of the ridge from the north, Tibetan, side of the mountain, thereby avoiding the Khumbu Icefall. Two climbers reached the summit, Sharon Wood and Dwayne Congdon. In doing so, Sharon Wood became the first woman from the western hemisphere to do so. Her having the chance came as a result of fellow team member, Barry Blanchard giving up his place for her. A recent account by Sharon Wood can be found in Morrow & Wood (2012).
The next attempt covered could be called a "revenge" climb, in that it was the solo attempt by Roger Marshall, who had founded the 1982 expedition, and then been kicked off of it after reaching Nepal. This was his chance to show what he could do and, and do so in marked contrast to the conventional brute force style of the 1982 team. Marshall actually made a number of attempts in 1986 and 1987, having his initial attempts thwarted by conditions. His planned route was a near direct one on the North Side, heading up the Japanese Couloir, then up the Hornbein Couloir. On his last attempt, at about 7, 800 metres, something was wrong, so he turned back. He fell to his death on the descent.
The fourth expedition was also somewhat of a "revenge match." It was an 1988 alpine attempt from the North Side by Barry Blanchard, who along with his climbing partner, Albi Sole, had been thwarted from having their chance at the summit in 1986, when they were called off the mountain by the expedition leader Jim Elzinga. They had planned to do the 1988 expedition together, but Albi was not able to do so. Eventually, Blanchard climbed with Marc Twight, of Seattle. The plan of the Everest Express Expedition was an oxygenless 3-day alpine push up a couloir on the North East Face, without sleep (or sleeping bags), no fixed lines, and no outside help carrying gear. While they got above 8, 000 metres, and made a number of attempts (including a final via the North Col to the Great Couloir), they had to withdraw. Weather, but more significantly, acclimatization problems, defeated them.
The book is well written and researched, but like many others, is frustrating due to its lack of an index.
This is a biography of Don Whillans, one of the most talented of the working class climbers to emerge out of the midlands in the years following WWII. Having cut his teeth on English gritstone cliffs, Skye and Wales, perhaps Whillans' most outstanding achievement in the mountains was his landmark ascent, with Dougal Haston, of the south face of Annapurna in 1970. Whillans epitomized the hard drinking, hard living, scrappy stereotype of his generation of British climbers. In fact, in later life, he appears to have become almost a caricature of this persona - what Perrin describes as an "Andy Capp" type character. Be that what it may, he was clearly extremely talented on rock, and by all accounts had a brilliant mountain sense. Yet he died at 52 of a heart attack - no great surprise given his weight, drinking and constant smoking.
So what of the biography? On the one hand, it is one of the most meticulously researched and written biographies that I have seen in the mountain literature. Footnotes abound, and the detail is extreme. But while reading it, I kept thinking, "but this is a climbing biography", and had a sense that something was out of balance. It often read too much like the dry fact-ridden books that I plodded through in high school rather than mountain history as someone like Unsworth writes it.
Other than the first chapter, the book is written in strict chronological order. Not necessarily a bad thing. But along the way, it goes into great detail about what seems like every climb that Whillans ever made. This made the account sometimes less than gripping, in the same way that way too much detail about early climbs detracted from my appreciation of Buhl's Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage. If you want to go and repeat these climbs, or are familiar with the crags, this detail may have significant relevance, or interest. To me, without deeper motivation, this detail has more to do with the author's ability at research than it has to do with developing an understanding of Whillan’s character. Having said this, and to be fair, I suspect that my feelings may have been much different if the book had of included photographs or diagrams of the crags discussed, such as you would find in a guidebook. This, at least, would have helped the reader better understand Whillans’ accomplishments in context.
It is, in fact, in the area of photographs and maps that the book falls more than a little short. It does, however, have a reasonable (but short) annotated bibliography, and an excellent index.
In summary, this book is a tour-de-force of research and persistence on the part of Perrin. For the reader interested in cutting through the myths and legends about Whillans, and getting closer to historical accuracy, this is an excellent volume. But my ultimate feeling is that the author himself was often too present in the book, and this was at the expense of Whillans. I also had the sense, throughout the book, that Perrin would rather have been writing about Joe Brown than Whillans (which made me think that I wish that he had too). I acknowledge that these are highly subjective opinions.
In summary, this is an excellent history, but a difficult read. I could’t help but contrast the style of the book with the character as Whillans. I think that he would have put it down after about Chapter 2. But then, I am happy to have it in my library.
Petech, Luciano. (1949). "The missions of Bogle and Turner according to the Tibetan texts". T'oung Pao, XXXIX, 330-346.
This article discusses the references in the contemporary Tibetan texts that relate to the missions sent by Hastings to the Tashi Lama. These include the missions of Bogle(1774), Turner (1783) and Purangir Gosain (1785). The purpose of their visits included determining the potential for trade with the British East India Company. A good account of these travels from the perspective of the British is given in Woodcock's Into Tibet: The Early British Explorers. This article by Petech is short, as the references to these missions are as sparse as they are brief. Most of the article is devoted to the mission of Bogle. However, they do confirm much of what was reported by Bogle and Turner in their narratives. (Note that I have not been able to find a copy of this issue of T'oung Pao for sale, so only have a photocopy of the article from the library. I have placed a scan of the article on-line which can be accessed by clicking on the title, above.)
This is a biography/memoire of the American climber, Paul Petzodt, written by his wife. Petzoldt was an early climber in the Tetons, and was a member of the 1938 first American expedition to K2, led by Charles Houston. See also the biography by Ringholz, On Belay.
This is an editted and abridged version of the 2 volume edition of Jacquemont's letters that was published in 1834. See also Stacton's biography of Jacquemont, A Ride on a Tiger - The Curious Travels of Victor Jacquemont.
Annotation to come.
This is a French language omnibus collection of six mountaineering books:
Alphonse Daudet: Tararin sur les Alpes.
Georges Sonnie: Un médecin de montagne
Joseph Peyré: Matterhorn
Hohn Hunt: Victoire sur l'Everest
Bernard Pierre: Une montagne nommée Nun Kun
Ang Tharkay: Mémoires d'un Sherpa
The last of these, Ang Tharkay's autobiography is the most interesting to know about, since it is very hard to find the original edition, yet it is an extremely important book.
Polo, Marco; Edited by Richard J. Walsh, Intro by Pearl S. Buck, iIlus by Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge (1298/1948). The Adventures of Marco Polo; As Dictated in Prison to a Scribe in the Year 1298 What he Experience and Heard During his 24 Years Spent in Travel Through Asia and at the Court of Kublai-Khan. New York, The John Day Company.
This is a beautifully illustrated edition of the classic of the adventures of Marco Polo. While perhaps out of place in this context to some, this book was standard reading for virtually all of the early explorers of Tartary.
This is a large format book on glaciers whose informative text is beautifully illustrated by photographs. It is an outstanding introduction to the topic.
This is an interview with Stuart Hutchison, who was a client of Rob Hall on Everest in 1996. Given 5 years after the events discussed, this is Stuart's first interview dealing with the trip, other than a brief one with Jon Krakauer when he was writing Into Thin Air. The interview is thoughtful and down-to-earth, and it speaks to a number of what Hutchson frames as "myths" that cloud the discourse around Everest 1996. Worth reading.
This is a collection of profiles of eleven adventurers, or perhaps more accurately, mis-adventurers. What binds them together is the fact that all of their excursions - be they on mountains, oceans or in the polar regions - were founded more on hope, delusion, determination and mania than on skill, training, fitness or experience. This is what distinguishes them from the mainstream adventure traveler. It is also the basis according to which Powter, a clinical psychologist, characterizes each as suffered from a kind of madness. Mountaineers will be familiar with some of the protagonists, such as Maurice Wilson and Earl Denman - both of whom made solo attempts on Everest, and perhaps Aleister Crowley ("The Beast 666"). Perhaps more well known, and initially more surprising due to their inclusion in this volume, are Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame), and Robert Falcon Scott (of the Antarctic).
Powter has clearly invested a lot in his research. This is especially evident in his essays on Denman, Wilson, and the Waterman family (Guy, Bill and Johnny), where he has been able to access new sources that make an important contribution to the literature. He is also a writer of outstanding ability who keeps these stories flowing and without stalling in what might otherwise be a pretty depressing volume. He clusters the essays around three themes, The Burdened, The Bent and The Lost. It is not clear to me why the French Aviator Jean Batten, who appears in The Bent, was less burdened by her mother than Lewis, who appears in The Burdened, was by Jefferson. On the other hand, I'm not sure it matters too much. Powter himself confesses that more than one of the stories fits equally well in multiple categories.
Overall, I think that Powter's reading of these expeditions is valid and fair. With Maurice Wilson, for example, he is clear that had the mission been to fly to India - at the time a remarkable objective in itself - he would have been viewed as a success, albeit an unlikely and eccentric one. My reading of Denman is far less dark than that of Powter. There are few books by mountaineers in which I found more insightful thoughts about our relationship with nature. Despite his eccentricities, he is not someone that I would have lumped in with the likes of Crowley, the sailor Donald Crowhurst or Maurice Wilson. Likewise, despite (or perhaps because of) Powter's depth of research, I was disappointed that he did not consider some of the more recent literature in his analysis of Scott. Based on his 2003 book Captain Scott, I suspect that Ranulph Fiennes would take strong exception to how the man is characterized in this volume. This is a debate that I would love to hear.
I also was somewhat disappointed by the brevity of the book's epilogue (two pages). Having completely engaged me in the telling of the eleven stories, I wanted more by way of summary. Yes, all of these people appeared to have a troubled family life in common. But my problem is this: if I scratch beneath the surface, I'm not sure that I know anyone who hasn't. This just doesn't seem enough. Why them and not others who have been through comparable or worse experiences, for example? Likewise, I think it too easy to say
... the troubled path seemed to begin with the loss of a parent - in most cases a father. Lewis, Andrée, Franklin, Corti, Wilson, Scott, Denman, Crowhurst, Batten, and Juedel all lost fathers when they were quite young, either through death, abandonment, or estrangement.
First, the nuclear family where children grow up under the same roof as both of their birth parents is approaching the exception rather than the rule today. But in the past children of the class of many in this volume were sent off to school at a young age and raised by nannies, rather than parents. And if one did stay at home, in the aftermath of WWI and WWII - the period when many of the protagonists lived - growing up without the presence of one's birth father was not so uncommon either.
Furthermore, in his brief discussion of growing up fatherless, Powter does not differentiate between Denman, who lost his father at about age 10, and the French female aviator, Jean Batten, who - along with her mother - abandoned her father (rather than him them) in adolescence in the pursuit of her (her mother's?) goals. Likewise, it is hard to see how the fatherless characterization applies to Scott. Yes, he went to sea at age 13, but that was not uncommon for boys of his class and from sea-faring families. His family did not go bankrupt until he was 25, and he was 29 when his father died. Without a deeper discussion, this seems to be pushing things a bit far. But it is Wilson who seems to fit least well in this fatherless collection. While not a psychologist, everything that I have read, including this account by Powter, his "madness", such as it was, seems far more attributable to his experiences at the front in WWI than any family history. Similarly, I would suspect that the would-be sailor Donald Crowhurst's mental problems had more to do the the presence of his bullying father, rather than his absence, along with his mother's propensity to dress him as a girl when he was a child.
While it may sound like it, I don't mean any of the above by way of criticism. Powter has worked well within the scope allowed by the style and vehicle that he has chosen to tell his tales. And as I have already stated, he has told them admirably. The book engrossed me and it made me think. What more can one ask? And if I do have questions, in many ways, so much the better. Through this volume, he has provided the gist of many a future conversation. For this, and the wonderful stories that it contains, I would strongly recommend this book.
This is a biography of the co-founder of the Theosophical Society in 1875 with Madame Blavatsky, with whom he traveled to India. Blavatsky and Olcott influenced thinking and awareness of Tibet and Buddhism at the time, and are therefore relevant to the history of the region. See also other biography by Murphet, Hammer on the Mountain: The Life of Henry Steel Olcott. Annotation to come.
A great encyclopedia of the names of mountains in the Canadian Rockies, Selkirks, Purcells, Monashees and Cariboos.
This is the first of many biographies of Mallory, although in many ways it is more of a eulogy than a biography. From a factual perspective, there is little here that does not appear in the later volumes – one exception being that Pye reprints most of Mallory’s 1914 Climber’s Club Journal essay, “The Mountaineer as Artist.” However, biographical detail is not the reason for reading this book. This is the only biography written by someone who knew Mallory intimately. While lacking in the objectivity that one ideally obtains from a biography written from more of a distance, this book tells us things about Mallory that cannot be conveyed by factual details or vivid descriptions, no matter how well researched or written. By what he chooses to say, and by how he says it, Pye tells us as much about himself, his values and his times, as he does about Mallory, his close friend. And, by reflection, this tells us volumes about Mallory in a manner that no later biographer has or could.
By all means read one of the later biographies first. I would recommend starting with Hozel & Salkeld (1986). But then read this one. It is easy to obtain, since it was re-released in 2002 by Orchid Press, Bangkok, Thailand. However, for the full benefit of this volume, make the effort to find a first edition. It is simply a beautiful little book, on wonderful paper, with tasteful typography, and outstandingly reproduced photographs. Aesthete that he was, Mallory would have approved.
In chronological order, the other biographies of Mallory are: Styles (1967), Robertson (1969), Holzel & Salkeld (1986), Green (1990), Gillman & Gillman (2000) , Salkeld (2000), Green (2005), and Davis (2011).
This is alleged story of seven people who broke out of a Siberian labour camp in 1941, crossed south into Outer Mongolia, across the Gobi Desert, through Tibet to India and freedom. T he veracity to be taken with a grain of salt.
In 1904, attached to the Younghusband mission to Tibet, Rawling made and extensive survey of Western Tibet, including territory within 60 miles of the north side of Everest.
Like Terray, Rébuffat was one of the members of the French expedition that made the first ascent of Annapurna. This is a recent edition of his 1954 classic account of his ascent of six of the biggest challenges of the alps: the north faces of the Grandes Jorasses, the Piz Badile, the Drus, the Matterhorn, the Cima Grande di Lavaredo, and the Eiger. It is especially interesting to contrast his account of his ascent with that of Buhl. Both were on the mountain at the same time and climbed much of the mountain as a combined rope. This is a small, well written classic book. It is also interesting to read this account of ascending these six classic north faces with that of Alison Hargreaves, who did them all solo in 1993.
Annotation to come.
A coffee table book that gives route descriptions, digrams and photos suitable to provide a guide to the routes to someone who will never try and climb them. That is, it is a pseudo guide, but interesting neverthelss, and well illustrated. Well, with one exception: there is no decent overview map or diagram that shows the whole massive, the routes, or helps you place the climbs described in physical context (the one in the inside covers is inadequate and almost illegible). Too bad. With that, it would be bordering on excellent.
This is a compilation of the autobiographies of three people, Phun-tshogs Lung-rtogs, Karma Sum-dhon Paul and Ts'an-chih Chen, who served as intermediaries for the British in their dealings with Tibet around the beginning of the twentieth century. Although he does not speak about this aspect of his life, the one best known to the mountaineering world is Karma Paul. During the early British expeditions through Tibet to the north side of Everest, he was the intermediary in all interactions with the local communities, etc., en route, as well as between the British expedition members and the Sherpa on the team.
This is an account of the 1976 US Bicentennial Everest Expedition. The expedition was largely made up of weekend-type climbers and, as seems to be the case will all US Himalayan expeditions at the time, had significant interpersonal problems within the team. Annotation to come.
This is an account of the US expedition to K2 in 1978, led by Jim Whittaker. This is an expedition that saw ascents by Jim Wickwire, Lou Reichardt, John Roskelley and Rick Ridgeway. This expedition had a serious dose of controversy, as is made clear in this account. But besides making the first US ascent of the mountain, it also achieved the first ascent of the North-East Ridge route, and the first oxygenless ascent of the mountain, which was made by Lou Reichardt.
See also the biography by Petzoldt's wife, Patricia, On Top of the World. Annotation to come.
This is an account of the strange solo attempt on Everest in 1934 by Maurice Wilson. Wilson was driven to climb Everest by a desire to show that faith and diet (including fasting) would enable one to overcome any obstacle. His initial plan was to fly solo to the mountain, crash land on its lower slopes, and then climb to the summit. (How he was to return in this scenario was never spelled out.) There were only two problems: he did not know how to fly, and he knew nothing about climbing or mountains. Despite this, he spent a few months learning to fly, bought a plane, spent a weekend walking in the Lake District, and with great fanfare and publicity, set off. His successful solo flight to India, in itself, would have been proof enough of the power of faith and determination for most people. But for Wilson, it was just the preamble to his real objective. Running out of money and into administrative obstacles, he sold his plane in India, and decided to hike in to the north side of the mountain from Darjeeling. Not having permission to enter Tibet was not going to stop him. He engaged 3 Sherpa and then set off in disguise, often traveling at night and avoiding villages. Despite never having seen a glacier before, without using crampons, and not knowing how to use the ice axe that he had, he actually managed to get almost to the foot of the North Col ( the 1933 expedition's Camp III) from base camp, on his own. Exhausted, he returned to the Rongbuk Monastery to recover. He then set off again, this time with two of the Sherpa, who agreed to go as far as Camp III with him. Wilson made repeated attempts to get to the North Col, and got way further than his lack of experience should have ever brought him, but that was still not enough for him. The summit was his objective. The Sherpa refused to go further, so he asked them to wait while he made another attempt. But you can only tempt fate so many times, and the inevitable happened. The Sherpa returned home and Wilson's body was found in 1935 by Shipton, and subsequently buried in a crevasse on the East Rongbuk Glacier (this is described in Shipton's Upon that Mountain.
This is not a particularly engaging or well-written book. But being based on the meticulous diaries that Wilson kept, it is a good (and the only) detailed chronicle of Wilson's attempt. It is a curious footnote to the history of Everest that is worth reading, despite the frustrating absence of any references, bibliography or list of sources. See also the more recent biography by Hanson, Salkeld's "The Mad Yorkshireman", Shipton's autobiography, Upon that Mountain, and, especially, A.J. Russell's "The Lone Climber of Everest.
This is a recent book that has stirred up a fair bit of controversy concerning the historical first ascent of Annapurna, as described in Herzog's classic book. It makes a very strong case that things were not as ideal on the expedition as Herzog has painted them, and that the contribution of the other team members, especially Lachenal, were systematically downplayed to the greater glory of Herzog. Herzog, while clearly a heroic figure, comes off rather badly in this account, and one's respect for, and interest in, the other team members is enhanced greatly in the process. After reading Herzog and this book, one is compelled to read Terray and Rébuffat. But, as a counterpoint to Roberts, one should also read Messner's recent book that comes to Herzog's defense.
This is a memoir by Roberts, who is both a prolific contributor to the mountain literature, as well as a climber who has pioneered a lot of climbs in Alaska. The book has ambitions beyond simply recounting his life and climbs. His larger agenda, the reexamination mentioned in the title, has to do with examining what he calls “the two fundamental questions” that confront a climber: “Why do we climb mountains?” and “How do we justify the risk and the inevitable tragedy climbing entails?”
By expanding the scope of the book, Roberts amplifies the difficulty of his task. To summarize in advance, while his writing is fluid and engaging, I don’t think that he succeeds, and I found the book really problematic.
To be fair, perhaps part of my reaction to the book is due to the fact that the person that emerges from its pages is an egoist with no apparent sense of humour. And despite his intentions, I found it ironic that the person that emerged from the book, was so often at odds with the basic character that the reexamined self was supposed to have become.
And, to top it off, while superficially well written, the book has flaws in its writing which should not be there - especially given the author’s experience. In particular, he has a habit of repeating the same information multiple times, such as facts about Dougal Haston, the Diamond cliff on Longs Peak, for example, and a few too many “halcyon days.”
It is not just that Roberts seems to feel that we need to know about his first sexual experiences and when he first masturbated in order to tell his story and make his thesis. (I can handle sex, but this was way too much information.) What bothered me was the contempt that he expresses for the “narcissism of many of the spoiled rich kids” that he taught at Hampshire College and “the raging egomaniacs among top climbers” whose biographies that he reviewed for Ascent. The problem lies in his seeming inability to recognize this in himself and his own writing.
For me, at least, the book only goes through the motions of reexamining the values of his climbing years - those of the selfish climber who only considers the consequences of their actions on themselves. For while he gives lip service to a newfound recognition of the need to examine the impact on others (something that is far better treated in Maria Coffey’s, Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow). Yet, throughout, even today in his reformed persona, Roberts cannot resist augmenting the accounts of his climbs with statements (boasts?) about how hard they were and how they are still considered so. An example is his making clear that Roper and Steck’s Classic Climbs of North America described their route up Mount Dickey as “the first Grade VI rock climb in Alaska, Climbing magazine described it as “at the time the hardest alpine route in North America”, and that after their 2003 second ascent, House and Hollenbaugh were “magnanimous in praise of our ascent” in the American Alpine Journal.
This type of writing, especially when it appears about climbs that have already been described in books and/or journals, seems to me to have a lot more about establishing one’s credentials and legacy as an important “hard man” climber, and pioneer of routes in Alaska, than someone reassessing the role of climbing in their life. Throughout I had a sense of Roberts wanting to have his cake and eat it too. As a consequence, his efforts to express a new-found sensitivity and awareness too often rang very hollow.
Roberts clearly needed to write this book as some form of catharsis. But what of the reader? For me, it didn’t work. Roberts is an outstanding writer, but apparently not when writing about himself. Too bad.
This is a compilation of two early classic books by David Roberts, The Mountain of My Fear (1968) and Deborah (1970), which are published as part of the Legends and Lore Series. Annotation to come.
This is the third of nine biographies of Mallory, and was written by Mallory's son-in-law. In chronological order, the others are: Pye (1927), Styles (1967), Holzel & Salkeld (1986), Green (1990), Gillman & Gillman (2000) , Salkeld (2000), Green (2005), and Davis (2011).
This is the story of the siege of Chitral, in 1895, when the British troops from Gilgit, led by Robertson, were under siege for almost two months.
A biography of Cowles who, among other things, was a member of the 1950 American expedition to the Everest region of Nepal, led by Oscar Houston, which included Tilman, who wrote about it in Nepal Himalaya. Annotation to come.
This is a wonderful collection of black and white and colour photographs, with accompanying essays, from the 1952 Swiss expeditions to Everest. It is the Swiss counterpart to Alfred Gregory's The Picture of Everest. See also Everest: The Swiss Expeditions in Photographs, compiled by Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research. For more information on the Swiss expeditions, see Forerunners to Everest, which is the official account, as well as Kurz's The Mountain World: Everest 1952. Tenzing's account of this expedition is especially positive, and can be found in his first autobiogrphy, Tiger of the Snow.
ibid. (1890). Through Northern China to the Koko-nor, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 41(1), 4-17.
ibid. (1890). The Border Land of China, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 41(2), 250-263.
ibid. (1891). Among the Mongols of the Azure Lake, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 41(3), 350-361.
ibid. (1891). Northern Tibet and the Yellow River, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 41(4), 599-606.
ibid. (1891). Through Eastern Tibet and the Yellow River, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 41(5), 720-730.
Rockhill was a remarkable American orientalist who was a diplomat in Beijing. He was fascinated with Tibet, and worked for four years to study Tibetan (he was already fluent in Chinese). In 1888 he resigned his position, and a year after Younghusband, set off westward from Beijing on the Silk Road. Unlike Younghusband, however, his route deviated south. His intent was to get to Lhasa disguised as a Chinese. He was thwarted, but undaunted, tried again a year later (see the following reference for an account of this expedition). This time he got within 100 miles of his goal. While he did not succeed, he was a remarkable geographer, and his surveys and studies of the people and their culture are still respected today. These articles published soon after his second trip are remarkable, and beautifully illustrated.
This is the book that resulted from Rockhill's first expedition, discussed in the annotation of the entry directly preceding this one.
This is an account of Rockhill's second, 1891-92 expedition to Tibet. See the preceding entry for more background. Annotation to come.
This is an English language translation, by Klaudia Schaller and a team from Kent State University, of Finch’s 1925, Der Kamph um den Everest. The text of Finch’s original book is augmented by relevant passages from his diary. As well, the book contains a discussion of Finch’s rejection from the 1921 expedition on medical grounds, including copies of the original medical reports. The book is well illustrated, but it is worth noting that the photos used are not those in the original. On the positive side, for example, this volume is much better in terms of illustrating the oxygen apparatus used – something that Finch was intimately involved with. On the other, the photos in the original edition were stunning. For true enthusiasts, I recommend getting both volumes.
This is an account of Roerichs travels between 1924 and 1928, which took him through India, Sikkim, Ladakh, Leh, Chinese Turkistan, Mongolia and Tibet. See also the biographies that I have: Paelian (1974), Nicholas Roerich and Decter (1989), Nicholas Roerich: The Life and Art of a Russian Master. For those interested in Roerich, there is an excellent museum in NYC dedicated to his work. The museum's web site includes reproductions of a large number of his paintings, biographical information, as well as selected writings. Annotation to come.
A biography of Willi Unsoeld. See also the earlier biography by Leamer (1982), Ascent and the background information on Unsoeld found there. Annotation to come.
This is a biography of the British woman climber Alison Hargreaves who died on K2 in 1995. Hargreaves was a remarkable climber. For example, as described in her A Hard Days Summer, in 1993 she did the six classic north faces of the alps solo in one season, with a total climbing time of under 24 hours. Yet, she was dogged by bad luck and arguably some bad judgment, and her striving for recognition ended in largely the opposite effect that she intended. On her death, her successes were often overshadowed by questions about her as a mother, taking the risks that she did. Few people (other than Gammelgaard) question men in this way, but the double standard is only part of what is troubling in this book. To be honest, I am glad that I read A Hard Days Summer after this biography. Having read her own words, I felt that I knew her better and was more sympathetic - which may make a statement about the biography.
Annotation to come.
Much of the climbing literature follows a common structure: we decided to climb the mountain, we went to the mountain, we climbed it. This extremely well researched volume is a notable exception. On the one hand, it is an account of the unsuccessful 1975 US expedition to K2, written by a team member who had access to the journals of the other climbers. In this regard, it is a candid description of a very split team who had an extremely difficult time getting to the mountain, due to conflicts with their porters, and then did not get very far up their chose north west ridge route. On the other hand, it is also an extremely well researched history of climbing and exploration in the Karakoram, in general, and K2, specifically. Rowell is not only an excellent writer, but his first hand experience as a climber, coupled with his clear fascination with the history and literature of climbing, help set the context for his account. All of this is off-set well by the quality and quantity of the photography and illustration in the volume. Due to this mix, something well worth reading emerges from an otherwise not very interesting or important climb.
This main part of this book consists of a relatively large 1:3,000,000 scale fold-out map and the book which lists the Central Asian mountains with their coordinates. There is additional supplementary material, including a bibliography, dictionary of terms, short history of the exploration of the region, etc.
Rubruck, Friar William
See Jackson. Peter & Morgan, David (Trans & Eds.)(1990). The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck
This is neither a book on climbing or exploration. It is simply a wonderful book of photography of the Canadian Rockies.
This is an account of the 1934 solo attempt on Everest by Maurice Wilson. The author, A.J. Russell was a London newspaper editor who was associated with a religious organization called The Oxford Group. It is likely that Russell was known to Wilson due to a religious book which he had edited in 1932, For Sinner’s Only. Regardless, Wilson wrote a long letter from India (largely reproduced here), explaining his objectives, and trying to engage Russell’s support in getting permission to proceed to Everest. This account is interesting in that (perhaps due to their shared strong religious bent), this is the only account of Wilson’s exploits that treats him as a hero, referring to him as “one of the most gallant adventurers this generation has produced.” (Contrast this, for example, with Salkeld’s 1993 account, which is titled “ The Mad Yorkshireman.) See also Hanson (2008), Roberts (1957) and Shipton (1943).
This is the official account of the 1933 British expedition to Everest. For other accounts of this expedition, see also Smythe and Shipton. Annotation to come.
This is an alternative edition of Ruttledge's Everest 1933. It is re-typeset to get more words on the page, hence fewer pages, and missing some of the appendices. However, it does come with a stereo photograph and stereo glasses that are not in the original edition.
This is the official account of the 1936 British expedition to Everest, led by Hugh Ruttledge. It also includes a short chapter on the 1935 Reconnaissance Expedition of 1935, led by Shipton. As with all previous expeditions, these expeditions approached Everest from the north side, from Tibet. Because of bad weather, in 1936 they made essentially no headway on the mountain at all. Full annotation to come.
Sale, Lady Florentina (1843). A Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan. London: John Murray. See: Patrick Macrory (Ed.)(1969). Lady Sale.
Sale, Richard (2004). Broad Peak. Hildersley: Carreg Ltd.
For a review, see: Buxton, William (2006). Broad Peak and the 1957 Austrian Karakoram Expedition
This is the German edition of Sale's 2004 book, published on the 50th anniversary of the climb. This edition is revised, and has eliminated many of the things that detracted from the English language edition, and adds things that are really useful, such as a few key maps.
This package is a welcome treasure. It comes in two parts. First there is the book that Ward never wrote, but long planned on doing so. From Ward's letters, notes and research, Sale has created a volume that is a significant contribution to the literature of the Himalaya. Second, there are the maps - 44 of them, each a separate folded sheet, all - along with the book - in a slip cover. Among other things, the book Includes excerpts from Michael Ward's diaries from the 1951 Everest reconnaissance expedition. For more on the Pundits, see Waller, 1990 and Stewart, 2006. For more on mapping India, see Keay (2000). Click here for other books on cartography. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is an extremely well illustrated (maps and photos) account of the exploration and climbing history of the world's 14 8000 metre peaks. It goes beyond first ascents, and covers the subsequent ascents of new routes on the mountains. For a follow-on volume, see also On Top of the World. See also Baume's Sivalaya, which also covers the climbing history of these mountains. While nowhere near as well illustrated, Baume's book has an outstanding bibliography.
This is a beautifully illustrated large format book which is an follow-on / update of Sale and Cleare's 2000 , Climbing the World's 14 Highest Mountains. See also Baume's Sivalaya, which also covers the climbing history of these mountains. While nowhere near as well illustrated, Baume's book has an outstanding bibliography.
Salkeld, Audrey (1993). The Mad Yorkshireman. In Peter Gillman (Ed.) Everest: The Best Writing and Pictures from Seventy Years of Human Endeavour. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 47-48.
This is a short (64 page) children’s book. It is a collection of photos, along with a narrative, covering Mallory’s life from childhood, up to the time of the discovery of his body in 1999. Most of the photos have been published elsewhere; however, there are a few panorama shots that I do not recall having seen before, and which are well reproduced.
See also, in chronological order, the other biographies of Mallory: Pye (1927), Styles (1967), Robertson (1969), Holzel & Salkeld (1986), Green (1990), Gillman & Gillman (2000) , Green (2005), and Davis (2011).
This is an edited volume of readings which collects a number of articles representing the climbing history of the Caucasus. It includes a rather detailed chronology of climbing in the region.
This has to be the definitive bibliography on Mount Everest, up to the time of its publication. This book is not well know, rarely cited, but in my opinion absolutely essential for anyone who is seriously interested in the literature around the mountain. It builds on Neate, and makes a significant contribution.
An account of a trip following the travels of the Chinese monk Xuanzang, who in 629 went made a 10, 000 mile pilgrimage from central China to India, along the "Silk Road". Annotation to come.
This is a brief, illustrated history of the railway in British India. It helps correlate the political, exploration and military history with that of the transportation system.
This is a chronicle of the 1994 summer season of the mountain rescue service on Mont Blanc. Sauvy is a novelist who is also a climber. She had spent some of the summer of 1983 with the service in order to do research for a novel, Nadir, that she was writing. The experience was inspired the current volume as a means to make people aware of what the service did. It is clear that a large part of this was her strong negative feelings towards the way that the rescue service was represented in mainstream media. The book is largely in diary form, in chronological order. However this is broken by three chapters scattered throught the book that told the story of historical rescues on the mountain, as well as periodic meditations on things like responsibilitiy in the mountains, liability, journalism, etc. This is very much not an objective endeavour, and Sauvy was not a detached observer. While she stayed at the helicopter base, and did not observe the rescues herself, she very much got involved on the human side of things - with both the rescuers and rescuees. While she goes out of her way to make clear that the vast majority of accidents are not with technical climbers, but with walkers, etc., nevertheless, the carnage is pretty intense in places. But then, there are up to 100, 000 people on the mountain, so 30-40 deaths per year are not suprising - unless you are the one picking up the pieces and sticking them into body bags. In the early stages, once the pattern of the book was established, I wondered how she would be able to carry it off for over 350 pages. But she did. It wasn't a pretty book. But one that I found really enlightening and interesting to read.
This is an extremely well researched and thought out discussion of Tibet, its history and culture on the one hand, and the West's fascination with it, on the other. Schell weaves his tale in a kind of counterpoint, where chapters on Tibetan culture and history are alternated with chapters discussing the West's perception of it. The nature of this counterpoint is between reality and fantasy. The growth of Buddhist-chic in Hollywood in general, and the production of the film of Harrer's Seven Years in Tibet, specifically, provide the primary vehicle for discussing the fantasy. (One should ideally have both read Harrer's book and seen the film before reading Schell.) The underlying sub theme (and perhaps, finally, the main theme), is the shallowness our typical analysis, regardless of whether we are considering turning to Lammist Buddhism for spiritual salvation, or forming opinions on the Chinese presence in Tibet. The message seems to be, "Be careful whose story you believe." I would add, therefore, that since Schell himself is telling a story, this should apply to his story as well.
Hence, while on the one hand this is an easy and excellent introduction to the history and literature on Tibet, as well as a very articulate cultural study, I would not recommend it as one's first book. My view is that it is far more interesting, and the insights far more pronounced, the more you have read on the topic before picking up this book. But it is definitely a book worth reading.
See also Eraly (2003). Annotation to come.
This book describes a trip taken in 1987 by two couples, Schmidt and his wife Wendy, along with Pat Morrow and his wife Baiba. Their objective, pretty much accomplished, was to circumnavigate the Himalaya. The result was an epic seven month trip that that paints as good of a picture as I have encountered of the trials and tribulations of long periods of travel under often difficult and frustrating circumstances. And of that trip, one of the things that made it pretty interesting was the fact that they covered much of the ground by bicycle.
Even though I have travelled with Pat, and know Baiba, that the two couples were able to remain friends throught the trip, much less stay married to each other, still left me full of admiration, and is some kind of testament to both their character and judgement. The book is a good read, and very well researched. Schmidt clearly knows the literature, and uses this knowledge to tell the story of the history of the areas that they were travelling through, in addition to documenting their own trip. Pat's photos that illustrate the book are outstanding, and one can only wish that there were more, and that the book was in a larger format.
My one complaint, which is too often repeated, it the lack of an index. In this day and age of computers, I just don't understand the false economy of leaving this out.
Schmuck was the leader of the 1957 first ascent of Broad Peak. This is his account of the climb. The book was only published in German, and even then, in only a small edition. The expedition was important in that it was the first in which an 8, 000 metre peak was climbed with no help from porters on the mountain. The 4 team members did all of their own carries, thereby paving the way for the alpine style ascents that were to follow. As well, it is the first in which all team members made the summit, and it was the first where someone (Hermann Buhl) made a second first ascent of an 8, 000 metre peak. For a detailed analysis of the literature and history of this first ascent, see Buxton (2006).
This is one of the most precious books in my collection. The core of the volume is Pete's climbing diary from his participation in the 1953 K2 expedition, led by Charlie Houston (Houston & Bates, 1955). The diary is augmented by copies of selected letters home to Pete's family, exerpts of the expedition newsletters, and a transcription of the expedition tape recorded by the participants right after the climb. It is highly illustrated, both with photos (primarily by Pete) and numerous paintings by Dee Molenaar. This book was privately published for family and friends. It has never been available commercailly. I believe, however, that it was made available to some national alpine clubs, and is in the American Alpine Club's rare books room. It is a special book, so if interested in Pete and/or the American 1953 K2 Expedition, it worth checking if your national Alpine Club has a copy.
These articles document the first two expeditions to attempt Mount Saint Elias. Both were unsuccessful, but laid the foundation for the success that followed. See Scott's Pushing the Limits, for more information on the climbing history of the mountain.
This is a wonderful book which is a must read for anyone interested in Canadian mountaineering or climbing in Canada. It provides a well researched and engagingly written history from the beginning to the present. (One of the gems that I learned from the book was that E.O. Wheeler, who found the entrance to the East Rongbuk Glacier, and was one of the first three on the North Col while taking part in the 1921 Reconnaissance Expedition to Everest, was a Canadian, and that he was the son of the co-founder of the Canadian Alpine Club.) Besides being an engaging history of climbing, the book also provides a great overview of the great places to climb in Canada, so it would be of great interest to anyone interested in climbing here. Finally, to make a good thing even better, the book is very well illustrated and designed.
This is perhaps the definitive book on the techniques and background history of big wall climbing, by one of the masters.
Annotation to come.
This is a volume of 44 short true-life adventure stories written by the protagonists. It includes a brief account by Somervell, "The Top of the World, " derscribing some of his experiences on Everest in 1922 and 1924. It also includes a piece be Smythe, "Storm on the Schreckhorn."
Scott was a US Air Force pilot stationed in Burma. In 1942 he flew a P-43A, following the Brahmaputra River, into Tibet, over Lhasa (which he photographed in colour), then circled Kangchenjunga, then over Makalu and Everest, which he also photographed.
This is the first of three biographies of Younghusband that have appeared. See also Verrier (1991), and French (1994). Younghusband was an important explorer of the Himalaya and Karakoram, led the 1904 British invasion into Tibet, and was the head of the Royal Geographical Society during the first three Everest expeditions, of which he was a prime instigator. He is one of the most remarkable men, among remarkable men. For Younghusband's writings in my collection, see The Heart of a Continent, Wonders of the Himalaya, Kashmir, India and Tibet, and The Epic of Mount Everest. Full annotation to come.
This is a large format volume
with wonderful reproductions of a representative set of Sella's photographs,
along with accompanying essays. Beautifully reproduced, the volume was
put together to accompany an exhibition of the photographs in 2000.
See also ,
See also, PAESAGGI VERTICALI: La fotografia di Vittorio Sella 1879-1943
,The Splendid Hills: The Life and Photographs of Vittorio Sella: 1859-1943 Alpinismo Italiano in Karakorum / Italian Mountaineering in the Karakoram.
The is a compilation of writing on mountaineering, including articles by a number of important climbers from the first half of the 1900's, such as Wyn Harris, Tom Longstaff, and C.F. Meade.
Shakespear, Sir Richmond (1842). A Personal Narrative of a Journey from Heraut to Ourenbourg, on the Caspian, in 1840. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Edinburgh: William Blackwood, Vol LI(CCCXX), 691-720.
This is one of those stories which would not be believable if it were fiction. In 1840, Shakespear traveled to Khiva to find out what had happened to his brother officer, Captain James Abbott. Abbott had been sent to Khiva to convince the Khan to release the numerous Russians who were held as slaves. The motivation was to remove the excuse used by a Russian force, led by General V.A. Perovsky, to annex Khiva. Nothing had been heard of Abbott, so Shakespear went to investigate. On arrival, he discovered that Abbott had been released from detention, and had gone home via Russia, without freeing the slaves. The bulk of this account relates how Shakespear succeeded where Abbott failed, and subsequently traveled overland to Orenberg in a caravan with the freed slaves.
This is perhaps the most comprehensive account of Tibet during the period since WW II. Annotation to come.
This is the official account of the 1935 reconnaissance expedition led by Shipton. See <>Shipton (1999) for a shorter account, but for the definitive account, see: Astill (2005), Mount Everest: The Reconnaissance 1935
This is the official account of the 1935 reconnaissance
Annotation to come. Quite apart from the actual content, this is one of the most beautifully produced books in the literature. Not in the sense of being an over-produced coffee-table book; rather, the print, paper, drawings, photographs, etc. are simply done with exquisite care. It is a treasure and a good example of why it is worth chasing down first editions rather than later reprints, when you can.
This is an early climbing autobiography. (See also Shipton's second autobiography, That Untravelled World). It covers a number of Shipton's climbs and experiences, starting with his first forays into the Alps as a young boy, up to his explorations in the Karakoram in 1939, right before W.W.II. There is quite extensive coverage of his experiences on Mt. Kenya with Wyn Harris, and later Tilman, as well as his trips to Everest in 1933, '35, '36, and '38. What is interesting is that he does not discuss at all his first expedition to the Himalaya, the 1931 first ascent of Kamet, led by Smythe. For this one needs to read Smythe's Kamet Conquered.
Shipton was an unusual man (for perhaps a trivial, but nevertheless typical example, he may be the only person that I have read who claims to actually have liked Tibetan-style tea - tea mixed with salt and yak butter.) His book is as interesting in what it says about him and the development of his views as it is about mountains or the exploration of geography. He is extremely articulate, for example, in his chapter arguing the merits of the small expeditions in the Himalaya. And, despite his participation in four Everest expeditions, even in 1943 he confesses his hope that the mountain is never climbed.
The story of his development is a movement from the goal-driven activity of ascending mountains, to one of exploring unknown valleys in an unencumbered style, yet with meticulous technique of navigation, living, and mapping. He is an amazing man who paid the price for being true to his beliefs, but also reaped the benefits. See also Shipton (1999).
This is an account of the 1951 expedition let by Shipton to make the first reconnaissance of the south (Nepal) side of Everest. A key achievement was that they showed that one could gain access to the Western Cwm through the Khumbu Ice Fall, which from the north side, had appeared that it may have been impregnable. This expedition also included Hillary, who eventually made the first ascent in 1953. See also Shipton (1999).
This is mainly a young adult's book which gives a personalized history of the mountain from discovery to its first ascent.
This is a book on the history of mountaineering. Coverage includes the story of climbing in the alps (especially Mont Blanc the Matterhorn), Mt. McKinley, Nanda Devi, K2, Annapurna, and Everest. It is highly illustrated.
This is Shipton's second autobiography, his first being Upon That Mountain. That Untravelled World was reissued in 2015, with an introduction by Katie Ives, as part of the Legends and Lore Seriesby Mountaineers Books, Seattle
This is an anthology of 6 books written by Shipton about his mountain travels: Nanda Devi (1936), Blank on the Map (1938), Upon That Mountain (1943), Mt. Everest Reconnaissance Expedition 1951 (1952), Mountains of Tartary (1951), and Land of Tempest: Travels in Patagonia 1958-62 (1963). Appendix I includes a section of his paper presented on the 1935 Everest Reconnaissance. For the full account see Shipton (1936). The good news about the anthology is that it makes these out of print books accessible. However, for enthusiasts, it is still worth searching out the originals, since the anthology is cumbersome, and does not include many of the photos that are in the originals, and those that are included, are often reproduced poorly, or smaller in size than in the original.
This might be the most beautiful, and well produced book of mountain photography ever. The original edition is a very large coffee table sized book, with phenomenally gorgeous images of the Himalaya. It comes in a protective box. It is well worth trying to search out this edition, if you can find one, rather than the smaller later ones.
This is an essay on climbing ethics and the state of modern climbing. It is highly critical of the "there is no point in trying to save them" school of thought that seems all too common. It comments, among other things, on some of the incidents that occurred on Everest in the spring of 1996, such as that described in Beck Weather's book, and the details of three Indian climbers on the north side of Everest, as discussed in Dickinson's book. My one critique in his assessment of the incidents on the South Col is that he relies too heavily on Krakauer's account, and does not seem to have read many of the other available accounts. Nevertheless, this is a compelling book, and given the experience that Simpson relates in Touching the Void, he is well qualified to comment on these matters. The book is also available in paper back from Vintage Books.
This is a recent edition of a 1988 book. Nobody would write this book as fiction, since it would be dismissed as unbelievable. It is the story of surviving a climbing accident where the odds against survival were huge. And despite knowing that the author survived to write the book, the reader is nevertheless on edge from cover to cover. This is a remarkable book. It is also available in paper back from Vintage Books.
The is a very readable and fairly well researched book on the history of the North-West Frontier. It is written as a series of portraits of some of the key players, each recounted in a separate chapter. These include Ahmed Shah Durrani, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Alexander Burnes, Lady Sale, John Nicholson, Lord Roberts, Abdur Rahman, Dost Mohammed, and others. The chapters on the non-British characters may be of particular interest, since there is a lot less written about them. The author's goal in the book is to argue that what was going on with the Russian occupation of Afghanistan (which was ongoing at the time of writing) was foreshadowed by what had happened with the British. Not a deep history, and without a substantial bibliography, but worth reading as it presents a fluent overview.
This is an extremely well researched scholarly work on Gulab Singh. The references and notes are extensive. There are other biographies, such as K.M. Panikkar's, The Founding of the Kashmir State: A Biography of Maharajah Gulab Singh, 1792-1858, but this is the definitive volume of those I am aware of. Singh's work is essential (albeit sometimes difficult) reading for anyone interested in this era.
Annotation to come.
A recent biography of Ranjit Singh. For additional information and references, click here. Annotation to come.
Macartney first went to Kashgar with Younghusband as an interpreter. He was stationed there for 28 years, 1890-1918, and was appointed British Consul General in 1911. Well written, but dry, and has little about the man, and more about the political background of the era. See also the autobiography of his wife, An English lady in Chinese Turkestan, which covers her time in Kashgar. 1898-1914.
This is an account of an early climb made by the author and Dougal Haston in Scotland.
This is a biography of John Lawrence, "Lawrence of the Punjab." Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is an exceptionally readable account of the 1933 expedition to Everest. This was the first expedition since 1924, when Mallory and Irvine were lost, and one of the interesting side stories in this account is around Wyn Harris finding Irvine's ice axe below the First Step. (In an Appendix Smythe discusses what he feels the implications of this are - implications that appear well founded based on the the later finding of Mallory's body, described in Ghosts of Everest. The account of the march in through Tibet, alone, is enough to parch your throat and make you want to wipe the grit off of your teeth. But for me this book holds some of the best descriptions of what it must have been like at the high camps at the time. Besides this first edition, I also have one from 1957 published by Adam and Charles Black, but it has far fewer photographs.
Accounts of climbing in the Alps and Himalaya, including a chapter on Everest 1933.
This is a small (44 page) book written for young readers. It covers the early history in the Alpes, through the "golden age" and on the the Himalaya. It includes a brief history of the Everest climbs, including 1933, on which Smythe was a participant. The book is beautifully illustrated.
This is the last in a series of six photo books that Smythe produced. Following an introduction, this volume has 47 full page photos, with a description of the scene and some background on the facing pages. The photography is not brilliant, but there are a few images of classic faces that help one visualize the scene when reading accounts of them being climbed.
This is an account of Smythe’s travels in the mountains and hills of the Himalaya, Great Britain, Switzerland and North America. The text is accompanied by colour photos. The section of the Himalaya includes an account of Smythe’s participation in the 1933 Everest expedition, including six colour.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is an early popular book for "young people." The first half tells the story of the early expeditions to Everest. It briefly covers 1921, 1922, 1924 and 1933 with a postscript on Tilman's 1938 reconnaissance expedition. The second half tells of the 1933 flight around Everest's summit, as well as give brief accounts of other Himalayan expeditions, including those to Kangchenjunga, Nanda Devi, and Nanga Parbat. There is a brief foreword by T. Howard Somervell.
This is a book on the history and culture of Mt. Kailas. See also See also Allen's A Mountain in Tibet. Full annotation to come.
A relatively recent comprehensive biography of Agvan Dorzhiev, whose activites provided one of the prime excuses for the Younghusband mission to Tibet in 1904. See also Andreyev's more recent (2001), An Unknown Russian Memoire by Aagvan Dorjiev, which sheds more recent light on the subject, and Kuleshov's 1996 Russia's Tibet File: The Unknown Pages in the History of Tibet's Independence. Full annotation to come.
These are the memoirs of Somervell, a veteran of both the 1922 and 1924 expeditions to Everest. (I have the second edition from 1938.) Even amongst the extraordinary people who made up the early Everest expeditions, Somervell stands out. In addition to his climbing ability, he was an accomplished artist, whose watercolours appear in the 1924 expedition book (Norton, 1925). He was also a skilled musician, who transcribed Tibetan folk tunes during the march to and from the mountain, and then adapted them for the soundtrack of the expedition films by Noel. But Somervell's skills as a surgeon (largely honed during WWI), and how he chose to apply them, are what most distinguish him. After the 1922 expedition he chose to tour India. A visit to the mission hospital in Neyyoor, in Travancore, southern India, convinced him to give up his career in Britain and devote the rest of his life to addressing the needs that he saw there. He returned to Britain in order to secure equipment, and prepare his affairs, and then returned and eventually took over direction of the Neyyoor hospital. About two thirds of this book are about his experiences there.
You cannot read this book without shaking your head. This man had balance, and despite what he encountered in his mission, he managed to keep it. Partially, I suspect, through his music, painting and climbing. But foremost through his faith. This is someone who was a devoted Christian, and who came from a family of missionaries. And it was in his expression and opinions on his faith that I found the most refreshing aspects of this book. I say this by way of contrasting his approach to the style of self-righteous publicly pious style of fundamentalist Christian views that seem all too prevalent in many of our public (and private) figures today. My sense is that Somervell would have had no time for any of that. (He was an opinionated man who did not mind expressing his views on such matters.) His actions were consistent with his faith, and he was a pragmatist, who had little time for dogma. Instead of being a fundamentalist, he took his religion to its fundamentals, and acted on them. This is a remarkable book, which in this time of the Iraq conflict, Live*, etc., is more relevant than ever.
Somervell, T. Howard (1948). The Top of the World. In Peter Scott (Ed.), The Lasting Victories. London: Lutterworth Press, 39 – 44.
This is a brief account, intended for young adults, of the first three Everest expeditions, the last two of which Somervell was a member. He speaks with candor about the avalanche of 1922 and the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine in 1924, as well as his own experiences in those years.
This is a very readable biography of Victor Jacquemont, a French botanist who traveled in India around 1830. He visited the north west Himalaya, including a brief excursion into Tibet, and had protracted stays in Lahore, as the guest of Ranjit Singh and Kashmir, as a guest of Gulag Singh. Jacquemont's account could just as easilly be entitled, "How to use your charm to travel like a king at other people's expense." In many ways, this is the story of one of the most audacious characters that one could encounter. He seemed to feel superior to everyone who was not French, and take it for granted that, with the right introductions (which he shamelessly procured), others should clearly treat him well. Despite being poor, but of good family, and dying relatively young, he knew almost everyone there was to know in France and in India. Fascinating. See also the edition of Jacquemont's letters edited by Phillips.
Along with Tilman, Shipton was one of the great mountaineers who explored the Himalaya, as well as Patagonia. Shipton and Tilman are as, or more, significant for how they explored, as for what they explored. This is a good biography, but one still would want to read Shipton and Tilman's own books. Shipton's early climbing autobiography, Upon that Mountain, is especially recommended for those interested in the man. However, this book is a good place to start in order to get an overview and some background. As well, it contains some excellent discussion of topics not covered in Shipton's own books, such as the circumstances of his not leading the 1953 successful British expedition to Everest.
This is one of the classics of the mountaineering literature from the so-called "Golden Age" of British Mountaineering. It documents the climbs in the Alps of Leslie Stephen, one of the key protagonists of alpine climbing in that era.
Annotation to come. See also Waller, 1990.
This is an available copy of the feature-length documentary on the 1953 ascent of Everest, shot by Stobart. It is available on DVD along with a lot of other archival footage from earlier expeditions.
This is the autobiography of Tom Stobart, who was the cinemaphotographer on the 1953 Everest expedition. The book is well written and very readable, however it tells far less about Stobart himself than the times that he lived in. In his descriptions of his travels to the Himalaya, Romania, Africa, Antarctica and Australia before the Everest expedition, I could not be struck by how much times have changed since then. While describing his time in Antarctica, for example, it is hard to imagine any writer today talking about a rare species of seal, the Ross seal, and than after having shot one as a specimen, having shot two more. Be clear, Stobart was not the person doing the shooting. It is just the notion of shooting and trapping wild animals for “science” that pervades the book that feels so foreign. But then, if books are about getting a sense of the times, then this one does a good job of it. I enjoyed the read, but was frustrated by how little he actually revealed.
Notes: (1) The feature-length documentary, The Conquest of Everest, shot by Stobart, is available on the DVD, Into the Thin Air of Everest: Mountain of Dreams, Mountain of Doom, Goldhill DVD. (2) An abridged version of this book appears as Stobart (1958b).
This is an abridged version of Stobart's autobiography, above: Adventurer's Eye.
There are several biographies of Mallory besides this one - in chronological order: Pye (1927), Robertson (1969), Holzel & Salkeld (1986), Green (1990), Gillman & Gillman (2000) , Salkeld (2000), Green (2005), and Davis (2011). You are probably better to go to almost any of them rather than this one. Styles’ biography was written for the young reader. That in itself is not bad. However, this book is written in a particular “Boys Own” style. It is all about glory, and heroism. The reason that I find this so off-putting is exemplified by Styles’ description of the infamous Younghusband mission to Tibet in 1903-4 (see Fleming's Bayonets to Lhasa, and among others, Younghusband's India and Tibet ): “… to drive out the Tibetans [from Sikkim] and having done so, establish trade with Tibet. This difficult and hazardous purpose was triumphantly achieved ….” (pp 17-18). This is nationalistic distortion of history at its worst, but sadly, all too typical of the mindset that Styles brings to his subject. Mallory would have been outraged, and he certainly deserved better. But then, I am reading history with today's mindset rather than that of Styles' time.
This is a small book which is interesting despite many flaws. If you want to know the actual history of the Survey of India, you are much better to read Keay's, The Great Arc or Edney's Mapping an Empire. One problem with this book is that it is less about "The" survey of India, and more about the general build-up of knowledge about the country through the contribution of travelers and explorers, such as William Moorcroft. This could be a good thing, but in Styles' hands it becomes more of an excuse to become diverted from his topic, with the result that you don't get a very good account of the travelers' explorations, nor of their surveying. My second problem with the book has to do with his not letting a good story get in the way of research or accuracy. The big flaw here is that he falls into the trap of devoting a significant amount of space to the exploits, and contribution to the mapping of India by Alexander Gardner, right down to telling, yet again, the totally bogus story about his being born in the US. Gardner has been totally discredited, most effectively by Grey in his European Adventurers of Northern India, 1785 to 1849. So, having misplaced so much space to Gardner, the reader is correct in being cautious about trusting the research in the rest of the book too much. However, having said this, the book is still interesting to read as a secondary source that gives a slightly different slant on material that you have gotten from more reliable sources, such as those that I cite earlier in this review.
This is a biography of Sandy Irvine by his great niece. Other than the brief biographical sketch by Irvine’s brother, Alexander, that appears in Carr's, The Irvine Diaries: Andrew Irvine and the enigma of Everest 1924 (1979), this is the only biography on Irvine that has appeared (in comparison to six or more on Mallory). While related to Irvine, Summers appears to have been as objective as possible in her treatment of her subject. She is quite candid, for example, about Irvine’s affair with the step-mother of one of his friends. This biography is a welcome compliment to those on Mallory. In some ways, it is interesting to see the parallels between two, as superficial as they may be. Both lived in the same town, neither “found” climbing by their own devices, both were of a certain class, and both had (wealthy) close friends marry their sisters. If you were to read only two books on Mallory and Irvine, my recommendation would be this one and Holzel & Salkeld (1986).
Annotation to come.
This is an excellent collection of photographs (mostly black and white) taken during the 1952 Swiss expeditions to Everest. The volume makes a good companion to the account of the climb, Forerunners to Everest, by Dittert, Chevalley and Lambert. The photos are well captioned, and cover the trek in, as well as wonderful shots of the mountain.
An account of the 1967 incident on Mount McKinley, where 7 members of an expedition let by Joe Wilcox died. Annotation to come.
This is the autobiography of a Tibetan aristocrat, which describes growing up in Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion, as well as life afterwards. It encompasses a personalized history of Tibet during the mid 20th century. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This includes accounts of Bryant’s participation in the 1935 reconnaissance, and Hillary and Lowe’s participation in the reconnaissance of 1951 and expedition of 1953.
This is a biography of John Laird Mair Lawrence, who was Viceroy of India (1863-69). Temple was his secretary, and this biography is more a memoire than scholarly historical research, although in his position, Temple's job was to know the mind of Lawrence. Annotation to come.
This is a biography of one of the great mountaineers and explorers of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Duke of Abruzzi was the first to summit Mt. St. Elias on the Alaska/Canada border (1897), as well as led a pioneering expedition to K2 (1909). Full annotation to come.
This is a new biography of Tenzing Norgay, as well as a brief history of a number of the other Sherpa involved in the earlier era of climbing in the Himalaya, including Ang Tharkay, written by Tenzing's grandson. It is a good companion to Tenzing's autobiographies, the first with the help of Ullman, Tiger of the Snow, and the second with Barnes, After Everest. See also his son Jamling's book, Touching My Father's Soul, Malartic's early biography, Tenzing of Everest, and the most recent biography, Douglas' Tenzing: Hero of Everest.
A more detailed annotation to come.
This is one of my favourite books. It is the English translation of Terray's 1961 classic. Terray was a Chamonix guide during the golden age of French climbing. In 1945 he roped up with fellow guide, Louis Lachenal, forming one of the great ropes of all time. Together they stormed up most of the most difficult routes in the Alps, including one of the most elegant, ascents of the North Face of the Eiger. Their climbs were remarkable for their speed, and consequently, how little weight they carried compared to the existing norms.
A major turning point for Terray was his participation in the controversial first ascent of an 8, 000 metre peak, Annapurna, in 1950. For Terray, it opened the door to him becoming the most accomplished expedition mountaineer of next decade. In 1952 he was climbing in Patagonia, where he made the first ascent of the Fitzroy, and in 1955, he made the first ascent of Makalu.
But it is not Terray’s technical brilliance that dominates this book. It is his dedication to his fellow climbers and his love of the mountains. Examples would be his role in rescuing Lachenal and Herzog on the descent from Annapurna, or his participation in the rescue of Corti from the North Face of the Eiger in 1957, described in Olsen's, The Climb up to Hell.
Terray is someone you will wish that you had a chance to know, climb with, and learn from.. Since he is no longer with us, this book is all that we have. It is beautifully illustrated and written, and a pleasure to read. Yet, it has been out of print for years, which is why the recent reissue by The Mountaineers, of Seattle, is so welcome.
Ang Tharkay is one of the most famous and important of the Sherpa involved in the early days of Himalayan mountaineering. He accompanied Shipton on no less than eight of his expeditions and was sirdar on the 1952 French expedition to Annapurna. He was also Tenzing’s landlord, as well as the first person to hire him on an expedition. While hardly known to the English language community, (partially because it is in French, and partially because it is hard to find), this is a really important book. It is one of only three first person accounts by Sherpa involved in the early days of mountaineering, and the other two are both by Tenzing Norgay , . Along with the Tenzing autobiographies, this book was a major source in Ortner's anthropological study of the influence of mountaineering on Sherpa culture.
Of all of the books in my collection, this one has been the hardest to find. Despite being originally transcribed in English by a Basil P. Norton, it has only been published in French. The translation was by Henri Delgove. The good news for those wanting to read the book is that it has been reprinted, again in French, in Pierre, Bernard's edited omnibus, Gens de Montagne.
To gain a sense of the cultural impact of Ang Tharkay's role on the Annapurna expedition, see Hergé's Tintin au Tibet.
Note: an English language edition, Sherpa: The Memoir of Ang Tharkay, will be released in 2016 by The Mountaineers Books as part of their Legends and Lore series.
This is an account of the trip to Tibet and Lhasa made by the American broadcaster Lowell Thomas and his son Lowell Thomas Jr. This is an outstanding book in that it is extremely well illustrated with over 100 photographs, including over 30 in colour, and more to the point, since this one of the last documented trips before Tibet was to change forever because of the Chinese invasion.
Thomson, Joseph, Graham, William Woodman & Markham, Albert Hastings (1887). From the Equator to the Pole: Adventures of Recent Discovery by Eminent Travellers. London: Isbister and Company (Isbister's Home Library series).
My attraction to this volume is the essay by Graham, "Climbing the Himalayas, " pp. 54-131. Graham was the first person that we know of to climb in the Himalayas for the purpose of pleasure. He begins with an account of his trip into the Kumaon district in 1883, including his attempts on Nanda Devi, and a second trip that same year into Sikkim, to the area around Kangchinjanga (sic.), including an assault on Kabru, which he claims to have summitted. Some of his claims are not taken seriously today, but nevertheless, his accounts helped seed the development of climbing in the region. (This book is not dated. I have seen it cited as 1886, but Neate cites it as 1887, so that is what I have used.) See also Graham's 3-part essay, "Up the Himalaya" in Macleod's volume, Good Words.
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is an account of the 1938 expedition to the north side of Everest led by Tilman in 1938. This expedition was distinguished by the relatively light-weight style of the expedition, being about one quarter of the size of previous ones. Full annotation to come.
Annotation to come.
This is an account of Tilman’s travels in Nepal during the postwar period, when the country was beginning to open up to foreign travel. This is mainly a travel, rather than climbing book. The bulk of it is about his 1949 trip to the Langtang region, and his 1950 trip to the area around Annapurna (including an attempt on Annapurna IV). It also includes his participation, at the end of his 1950 trip, in the American expedition to the Everest region of Nepal, led by Oscar Houston. This was a short expedition, which afforded Tilman and Houston’s son, Charles, a day to make a superficial reconnoiter of Everest’s south side. They could not see the South Col, the South Ridge, nor the head of the Western Cwm. They were limited by time, and the fact that Houston, due to lack of acclimatization, could not climb about 18, 000’ to gain a better vantage point. Their conclusion was that the south did not offer much of a prospect for a route, although they also acknowledged that they saw very little. Like most of Tilman’s books, this one is a pleasure to read. I find his dry humour refreshing. But for me, the biggest mystery in this book is how he could have been Tange, 10 miles away, and not visited Mustang! See also Robertson's Betsy Cowles Partridge: Mountaineer
This volume is a collection of seven previously published books written by Tilman between 1919 and 1952. Included are Snow on the Equator, The Ascent of Nanda Devi, When Men & Mountains Meet, Everest 1938, Two Mountains and a River, China to Chitral, and Nepal Himalaya. Along with Shipton, Tilman may well be one of the most important people in terms of exploring and opening up the Himalayas. He is also a great writer with a fantastic wit.
MacGregor was chief of staff for General Sir Frederick Roberts during the second Anglo-Afghan war. These diaries speak about the war, and are rather controversial in their criticism of Roberts, criticism which history has not concurred with. For another side to this, see the biography of Roberts by Brooke-Hunt.
This is a late-comer to the apparently still-growing literature on Everest 1996. In this case, the book is a biography of a former British Gukhas officer who was on Everest when the events up high started to unfold. Much of the book covers his descending in order to coordinate the rescue efforts from base camp. As it seems that nothing around Everest 1996 happens without controversy,. It turns out that in his book, Ultimate High, Göran Kropp (p.97) mixed up last names, and miss-identified another Mike as Mike Trueman. This is unfortunate, as he wrote about that Mike thus: "There's nothing worse than getting sober again in the afternoon," he'd blurt, drunk out of his mind, dressed in shorts. The cold didn't bother him. Mike was unkempt, slovenly in his habits, and talked wit a thick Scottish accent that was unintelligble even when he was sober. This resulted in Kropp's UK publisher being found guilty of slander,
Annotation to come.
This is the autobiography of the climber, Julie Tullis, who was the first British woman climber to climb an 8, 000 metre peak. She competed this book just before her death on K2, which she had summitted with Kurt Diemberger. This last chapter in her life is covered in Diemberger's The Endless Knot, and Curran's K2, Triumph and Tragedy.
This is an account of a 10 month trip, including a rich collection of photographs, in Tibet in 1942 by two OSS officers, Ilya Tolstoy and Brooke Dolan. Annotation to come.
A classic from the Golden Age of Alpine climbing. The first edition appeared in May, 1871. This is the "new edition", whose main difference from the previous one is that it has an index done by the author's wife, after his death. Annotation to come.
Sub-titled “A Chronicle of Man's Assault on the Earth's Highest Mountain Narrated by the Participants and with Accompanying Text by James Ramsey Ullman.” This is a compilation of excerpts of writings by those involved with Everest up to and including the 1938 expedition, including the 1933 flights over the mountain. Writings from Blacker, Bruce, Finch, Houston, Howard-Bury, (R.L.G.) Irvine, Mallory, Noel, Norton, Odell, Ruttledge, Scott, Shipton, Smythe, Somervell, Tilman and Younghusband are included. These are accompanied by overviews and introductions by Ullman.
This is the official account of the 1963 US Everest expedition that saw Jim Whittaker make the first US ascent, and more significantly, saw Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld make the first ascent of the West Ridge and the first traverse of the mountain.
This is a climbing biography of John Harlin who died when a rope broke while climbing the Eiger direct route, an expedition that he initiated, and which is described in detail in Gillman and Haston's Eiger Direct.
This is the definitive history of Everest. It is up to date and documents the history of the mountain and its exploration from the beginning. It is a large book, 789 pages, but is fluently written, informative, and a great read for anyone interested in mountaineering or Everest. It is a monumental work and well worth reading from cover to cover.
This is an account of the remarkable ascent of Everest's East (Kangshung) Face without supplementary oxygen. The expedition was made up of only four climbers, with no porter support on the mountain. All four made it to the South Col, two to the South Summit, and one (Venables) to the summit. An extremely well written book, and one that is not at all self-agrandising. An excellent read. The volume has spectacular photos, a large number of which are in colour. For another account of the climb, the reader is directed to Webster's Snow in the Kingdom.
Finally, note that this book was reissued in paperback in 2000 by Balliett & Fitzgerald under the title, Everest: Alone at the Summit. However, the reader is highly recommended to search out and get the hardcover edition. Many (most) of the photos in the original are left out of the paperback, and those photos that are included are terribly reproduced, and only in black and white.
This is a coffee-table book that was produced by the Royal Geographical Society in London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first summit. As such, one of its strong points is the collection of photographs included, and the quality of reproduction. It includes a history of the mountain by John Keay, the area by Ed Douglas, the climbing history from 1921-53 by Venables, the Sherpas by Tashi and Judy Tenzing, and the future by Venables and Reinhold Messner. For me, perhaps the most interesting contribution is a list, including thumbnail photo and brief biography, of the expedition members (including key Sherpa) of the expeditions from 1921-53, compiled and written by Sue Thompson and Mike Westmacott. While containing a few errors and omissions, this is the only such index that I am aware of, and it contains some biographical information that I had not seen previously.
This is a well written and pretty gripping account of surviving an accident that by all logic should never have been survived.
This is an account of the 1996 South African Expedition to Everest, written by a journalist who was to cover it for the sponsoring Sunday Times. He had strong differences with the leader, Ian Woodall. This is his account of this controversial expedition. It stands in contrast to the two "official" accounts, the first of which is the poorly written, Everest - Free to Decide, by O'Dowd & Woodall, and the much better later account by O'Dowd, Just for the Love of It.
The tension with Woodall was such that Vernon was kicked off of the expedition. The affair clearly did not end there, and this book seems to have the single purpose of vilifying Ian Woodall. The problem is, he is so intent on this, that he defeats his own purpose. He takes equal issue with everything from the trivial to the serious, and like being exposed to a constant loud noise, you eventually become deaf to it so that his argument becomes ineffective. Vernon has no concept of prioritizing issues, structuring arguments, telling a compelling story, or providing even the least semblance of a balanced argument. A Krakauer he is not, anymore than Woodall is a Bonington.
I have no doubt that Woodall was uncommunicative, authoritarian, and that his organizational skills were sometimes wanting. He was clearly neither perfect nor normal. (Normal people do not organize expeditions to Everest.) He may even be the devil incarnate. In fact, amongst the whining and trivial comments, Vernon makes some strong points that are worthy of attention, and which are simply ignored, or passed over in the official accounts by Woodall and O'Dowd. But by the form of his argument, rather than making his case, Vernon hurts it. In the process, he demonstrates that he himself was likely part of the problem, something that he fails to realize or admit.
Vernon appears to have been physically and mentally unprepared for being in the mountains. He talks about mountaineering culture, as if he is steeped in this world, in trying to make his case against Woodall, and yet was so naive that at the time of departure that he thought that he should be on the climbing permit so that he could climb Everest too. This is the same person who was so unfit that he could not trek to Namche Bazaar without taking a 2 day rest, and had clearly never been in snow before.
The sad thing is, here we have a journalist who is as obsessive as the obsessive person that he is complaining about. Consequently, some very legitimate issues that arise in the book, are lost.
If this is the standard of journalism that he exercised on the expedition, I would have fired him too. Too bad, since he was uniquely placed to write a fascinating book.
Annotation to come.
Visser-Hooft, Jenny (1926). Among The Kara-korum Glaciers. London: Edward Arnold.
Annotation to come.
The is a Dutch language book whose title translates to, "To Unknown Middle Asia Between the Karakoram and Hindu-Kush." Like the Littledales, Workmans and Barretts, the Vissers were a husband and wife team who traveled extensively in middle Asia. They were very concerned with geography, mapping, and solving some of the questions opened by Longstaff, with whom they talked in making their plans. The book is well illustrated with photos. My Dutch, while existing somewhat, is not good enough to permit me to provide a more detailed annotation. However, the interested reader is directed to the following web site that has more information on the Vissers: http://www.euronet.nl/users/spaninks/visser.html
The is a Dutch language book whose title translates to, "Through the Mountain Deserts of Asia." See the previous entry, above.
This is a collection of translations from Chinese and Japanese by Arthur Waley. My main interest in this book is the main essay after which the book is titled, The Real Tripitaka. This is one of the best accounts of the travels of Xuanzang (also known as Tripitaka, Hiuen Tsiang, Hsuan-tsang, Hsüan-Tsang, and Ch'en-I), who was a Buddhist monk who in 629 made a 10, 000 mile, 16 year pilgramage from Central China to India and back. See also Wriggins', Xuanzang: A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road.
This is a biography of Stein, who was perhaps the best known explorer / archaeologist in Central Asia. See also the earlier biography by Mirsky, Sir Aurel Stein. Full annotation to come.
This is the first in a series of three articles where Walker, the past Surveryor General of India, argued with Freshfield, the Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, that the local names “Gaurisankar” or “Devadhunga” were not legitimate, that there was no local name, so the name “Everest” should hold. See also Walker (1886b) and Freshfield (1886).
This is part of a debate about the naming of Everest. See Walker (1886a), "Notes on Mont Everest."
Ward, Frank Kindom (1926). Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges. London, Edward Arnold & Co.
I do not have the original first edition of this book. However, see the recent reissue edited by Cox..
A member of the British 1951 reconnaissance and the 1953 first ascent expedition to Everest. Annotation to come.
Ward was member of the British 1951 reconnaissance and medical officer on the 1953 first ascent. This book is essential reading for any student of Everest. It provides a history of each expedition to the mountain until 1953, including aerial, and his research and references are as thorough as they are outstanding. The book excels in two areas. It provides the best summary of the history of the evolution of high altitude medicine, and by far the best history of the exploration and mapping of the Everest region, that I have seen in the general literature.
This is an article describing how Ward and Clark became convinced of the viability of a route from the south side, using maps, and photographs from the 1921, 1935, and 1950 expeditions, photographs from the flights over Everest in 1933, 1945 and 1947, and the map compiled by A.R. Hinks between 1933 and 1945. This was the route taken in 1953. This article is reproduced in Ward (2003).
This article describes the making of what is the most detailed map of the Everest region. A copy of the large-scale map is included with the issue, which also includes a number of other articles and photos on Nepal, Everest and the Himalaya. See also Ward (2003), Hagen, et al (1963), and National Geographic (2003).
Annotation to come.
Annotation to come. See also, Man, John (2004). Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection.
This book is the story of Beck Weathers who was one of the near victims of the spring 1996 season on Everest. Weathers was left for dead three times, and by all logic should not have survived any of them. But he did and his story is remarkable. The book is actually relatively short on the actual climb, and has a strong emphasis on his family life before and after the climb. It is fascinating, but if you want his story, my suggestion is to get the DVD of the IMAX Everest film, since one of the "bonus features" that it includes is a long interview with Weathers which covers much of the material in this book, and does so better and in an unbelievably grabbing manner.
This is an account, loaded with colour photos, of Webster's three trips to Everest. The first was the unsuccessful American 1985 West Ridge Direct expedition, The second was his 1986 solo ascent of Changtse (Everest's North Peak). Finally, the third was the remarkable 1988 four man oxygenless ascent of Everest's East (Kangshung) Face, which put Venables on the summit (a climb also described by Venables).
This is an account of the author's 4 month trip in 1950 with the Scottish Mountaineering Club to the Garhwal and Almora regions, including the area around Nanda Devi. Annotation to come.
This is an account of the 1952 Scottish Nepal Expedition, which explored the areas west of Everest.
Annotation to come.
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Whittaker was the first American to reach the summit of Everest. He did so in 1963, as part of the large US expedition. This is the same expedition that also saw Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein make the first ascent of the West Ridge, and descending the South Col route, thereby making the first traverse of Everest. Whittaker was also the leader of two strife ridden expeditions to K2 (in 1975 and 1978), the second of which resulted in the first American ascent by Jim Wickwire, Lou Reichardt, John Roskelley and Rick Ridgeway.
This is not so much a climbing book as it is an autobiography of a climber. Yes, he writes about the Everest expedition, but in this context, it is more of a summary than an account. It does not mentions much about the West Ridge route (which was by far the most impressive feat of the expedition), but to be fair, he was not on the West Ridge, and concentrates on the aspects of the expedition that he directly participated in. Even then, he says little about the dynamics between the South Col and West Ridge factions. He is a bit more forthcoming in his discussion of the social dynamics on the two K2 expeditions. In the preface to his book The South Col, Noyce says, "...among all the books ... on Himalayan travel, very few give the 'inside story' ... of a man's life at high altitudes; or make you see the scenes that he saw." This book is not one of them. Yet, Whittaker was the fist American to summit Everest, and for that deserves his place in history. Thus, this book has interest. However, if you want a broader and more in-depth account of the 1963 US Everest expedition, read that by Unsworth, or better yet, the account by Hornbein. If you want to read about the 1975 and 1978 American K2 expeditions, this account is certainly worth reading. However, if you are going to read only one or two accounts, first read Curran (for a climbing history of the mountain), then Rowell (1975 expedition), Wickwire (1975 & 78 expeditions) and/or Ridgeway (1978 expedition).
FInally, note that in 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the 1963 American Everest Expedition,The Mountaineers released a second edition of this book. It has much higher production values, far more (and better) photographs, and a new foreword by Ed Viesturs. I have both in my collection.
A biography of Charles Masson, whose real name was James Lewis. Annotation to come.
This is a beautifully illustrated and written book describing the author's pursuit, over five years, to make the first ascent of the Matterhorn. This was a landmark in British mountaineering. Fuller annotation to come. See also Berg(2011), Henry(2011) and Messner(2015/17).
This is the climbing biography of a top US high altitude mountaineer. It is fairly well written and documents a number of important climbs, including the first US summit of K2 in 1978. It is interesting from a couple of perspectives. One is how frank it is about some of the political and social machinations that lie behind some expeditions. In contrast to the idealistic "spirit of the rope" described by Rébuffat, here we see something rather different, such as the 1975 US K2 expedition. The other issue is that it seems that a number of people died around Wickwire. Not to suggest that he was in part responsible, nevertheless, the book is interesting in his frankness in discussing this. This is not something that most people are qualified to write about, much less have the technique or willingness.
A history of the Russia Company (a.k.a. Muscovy Company). Annotation to come.
A history of women's climbing. Annotation to come.
Annotation to come
Annotation to come. Memoires of one of the seminal climbers of the so-called Golden Age of climbing in the Alps.
Wilson traveled in the Himalayan region in 1873 with an Indian butler and his Afghan cook. Annotation to come.
This is an early anthology of mountaineering writing. Included in the volume are:
This is an edited and abridged version of: Wolff, Joseph (1845). Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara, in the Years 1843-1845, to ascertain the Fate of Colonel Stoddart and Captain Conolly. London: John W. Parker.
Wollaston was a member of the British 1921 Everest expedition. He was a naturalist, mountaineer, and medical officer who had made a reputation as an explorer in New Guinea, Ruwenzori, before being invited to joint the team. He was murdered in 1930 by a Cambridge undergraduate, where he was a tutor. These letters and diaries were edited by his wife, Mary.
This is a book of A.F.R. "Sandy" Wollaston by his son Nicholas, who was only 4 years old when Wollaston was murdered in 1930. It is a type of biography, but that of a son trying to discover a father that he did not know, rather than any kind of objective analysis. What it does do is provide yet another example of the extraordinary people who made up the early Everest expeditions (Wollaston was the medical officer on the 1921 reconnaissance expedition). Wollaston was by vocation a medical doctor, but in reality a naturalist who traveled widely in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. For those wanting insights on Everest, there are few, and the book devotes only one chapter to the topic. On the other hand, one cannot not be struck by the contrast between our times and Wollaston's, where the prime thing that a naturalist did was kill the things that one was interested in order to stuff them and bring them back for zoological collections - and the more rare the specimen, the better. These were different times, and this short book is worth the read. My only real frustration is not only the lack of an index (inexcusable in this age of computers), but also the lack of a table of contents.
This is the classic history of the Levant Company, which was a near contemporary (and sibling) to the the British East India Company. It is a good companion to Keay's, The Honourable Company: A History of the East India Company.
Note that the above is the second edition of this book. The first edition was published in 1935 by Oxford University Press. This second edition includes revisions as well as two additional chapters. It is not just a reprint.
Annotation to come.
This is a wonderful introduction to the early British experiences in Tibet. It begins with a brief overview of the first European contacts. The first of these were Jesuits, beginning with the Portuguese Fathers Andrada and Marques in 1624. (A first person account of another Jesuit visitor can be found in the book by Father Desideri.) The main part of the book, however, deals with the first three visitors from Britain: George Bogle, who was in Tibet as early as 1774-5, Samuel Turner who was there in 1783-4 and Thomas Manning, who went in 1811-12. Bogle and Manning were both working for the East India Company, and went in the hopes of establishing trade with Tibet. Manning was an eccentric who was the only one who made it to Lhasa, perhaps because he was an individual, as opposed to someone associated with a larger organization. The irony is, Bogle and Turner were thwarted in their efforts to get to Lhasa, while Manning didn't really want to be there. He was just trying to get to Peking (in which he failed, at least via this route.)
This is the kind of book from which you learn more than you expected, and yet begs more questions than it answers. But what more could one ask for? In terms of modern Tibet, it is interesting to learn how much influence the Chinese had even back then. This is especially evident in the account of Manning's experiences. It is also interesting to learn that Tibet had, for a while, a secular monarch, who was removed by the Chinese. The irony seems to be that the consequence of this was that secular power fell to the Dalai Lama as a result of this act. Hence the Dalai Lama's secular power in some way stems from the same people who prompted his leaving the country almost exactly 200 years later.
The book concludes with a very brief overview of the history leading up to and including the 1904 invasion by Younghusband. But for more detail on this, one should also read Fleming's account of that event. Finally, a summary of the references to the missions of Bogle and Turner in contemporary Tibetan texts can be found in Petech's "The missions of Bogle and Turner according to the Tibetan texts".
This two volume set is a wonderful introduction to the history of India and the people who shaped its development. How can you resist a book that has a chapter entitled, "Pigsticking and the Purgation of Lusts"? There is a single volume abridged version of these books entitled, The Men Who Ruled India, which was published under the authorship of Philip Mason, which was a pseudonym used by Woodruff. Full annotation to come.
Woodward, David & Lewis, G. Malcolm (Eds.)(1998). The History of Cartography Volume Two, Book Three: Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific Societies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
This is one of the treasures of my collection. The Workmans went to the east in 1897 and proceeded to explore, climb and photograph throughout the Karakoram during the summers and cycle throughout Java, India, etc. during the winters. This is an account of their summer travels, mainly departing from Srinagar in Kashhmir. The main part of the book relates a trip via Skardu, Askole, and up the Biafo Glacier to the Hispar Pass (including the ascent of three peaks around the Skoro La Glacier). This is a wonderful book for a number of reasons. First, it describes a kind of trip that a rare kind of person of a certain class took around the end of the 19th century. The descriptions and style of writing tell as much about the times, attitudes and people as about the geography. Today's mind will approach shock when reading about the authors' views and attitudes towards their porters (to set this in context, see Ortner), but will be equally impressed at how plucky this couple, with their Swiss guide Zurbriggen, were. The book is exceptional in the collection of 65 photographs and two maps that it includes. While relatively unknown, there are more recent reprints (as well as old original editions) of this book around, and it is absolutely worth looking for by anyone interested in the early travelers in the region.
This is a biography of Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsiang), who in the 7th century made a 10, 000 mile, 16 year trip along the Silk Road from China to India, and back, in order to visit Buddhist shrines and collect Buddhist manuscripts. Xuzzansan, who was also known by his honourary name, Tripitaka, is one of the great documented travelers of all time. His account was an inspiration and essential reference for archaeologists in Chinese Turkistan, in the early 1900's, such as Stein (see Mirsky and Walker, for example). See also Waley's, The Real Tripitaka and Other Pieces.
This is a very recent biography of Percy Sykes. For other books relating to Sykes and the theatre of his career, see Hopkirk's On Secret Service East of Constantinople, and Skrine & Nightingale's, Macartney at Kashgar: New Light on British, Chinese and Russian Activities in Sinkiang, 1890-1918. Annotation to come.
The title about says it all. My copy is the third edition. Proper annotation to come.
This is an account of British involvement in Tibet from the time of Bogle's visit in 1774, up to 1910. The primary focus is on providing an account of the British invasion of Tibet in 1903-4, of which Younghusband was the political officer in charge (the so-called "Younghusband Mission"). See also Rawling, Candler, and Langdon for other first person accounts of the mission. For a broader history of it see Fleming's Bayonets to Lhasa. It is also covered in the three biographies of Younghusband, by Seaver (1952), Verrier (1991), and French (1994).
This is an account of the author's explorations in the Himalaya and Karakoram around the turn of the century. annotation to follow.
Younghusband was a pioneer in exploring the Karakoram region, and then went on to be the first chairman of the Mount Everest Committee of the Royal Geographic Society, which co-sponsored the early British expeditions to Everest. This book covers the British expeditions of 1921, 1922, and 1924, and is essentially a condensation of the books that resulted from these expeditions. One of the most interesting things in this book is the discussion on the use of supplemental oxygen, which was first used in 1922. Younghusband's views expressed in Chapter 9 are are consistent with what are now considered "fair means.".
The original hard cover edition is rather hard to find, and expensive when you do. However, the good news is that the paper-back edition released in 2000 by Pan Books has all of the photos found in the original, and they are well reproduced. As well, there is a copy of the book on-line, along with images, at:
Consistent with the title, this book is an analysis of the attempts on Everest to date. (The first edition covered the expeditions up to 1933, while the second edition, which is the one that I have, includes a chapter on the 1936 expedition as well.) However, it goes beyond that, and looks at the state of and prospects for, high altitude mountaineering in general. This includes a discussion of the experience of German expeditions on Kangchenjunga and Nanga Parbat, and the British ascent of Kamet, led by Smythe. The better part of the second half of the book has to do with the spirit of mountaineering and the Himalaya, in general, rather than Everest, specifically.
This is a description of Kashmir by Younghusband, highly illustrated by colour prints by Molyneux. It includes a description of the Karakoram and K2.
Annotation to come.
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