I am home from work again today, slightly feverish with a cold, so I hesitate to try to write anything, having my doubts as to whether or not it will be at all comprehensible or grammatically correct. However, I cannot sleep any longer, so I shall continue the backlog of completed reads.
Lost of Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine, Peter Firstbrook, is the first book upon which I stumbled on the topic of the 1999 climbing expedition to the north side of Mount Everest in a successful bid to locate the body of George Mallory. Mallory, of course, is the English climber who disappeared while leading the less experienced Andrew Irvine in a 1924 attempt on Everest’s summit. No one knows if they made it or not, because they did not return. Regardless, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to make it to the top and survive.
Firstbrook was the producer of the BBC documentary of the same name, which should set the tone for this read. He does a good job giving an overview of Mallory’s climbing history as well as his obsession with reaching the summit of Everest. He recounts the 1921, 1922 and 1924 British expeditions and, to a lesser extent, the 1999 recovery expedition. Too little time is spent on the found evidence and various theories. And is a climb on Everest now so commonplace that the details of the trying, oxygen-starved efforts to get there are something to be passed over in favor of cutting the book short?
Lost on Everest is a good introduction to the topic, but it ends poorly, disintegrating into a confusing jumble of statements of fact about the various unknowns of the last days of Mallory and Irvine. Irritating comments such as the one Firstbrook repeats early and often about the climbers definitely being on their descent when they perished may play well in a succinct documentary, but they do not in black and white to a reader looking for proof.
I will watch the related documentary, but for a book on the topic I am now looking for The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest, by Conrad Anker and David Roberts. Anker is the one whose off-track searching found Mallory’s body and whose free climb of the Second Step solved one big question. Roberts is a well established outdoors writer: True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna is among other books to his name. This is an amazing story, and I’m sure it can be told better than it is in Lost on Everest.