Monday, December 20, 2010

Ten Great Mountains, by R. L. G. Irving

Robert Lock Graham Irving is perhaps most well known as the man who introduced George Mallory to climbing in 1904, but he also kept pretty good track of mountaineering history, as shown in Ten Great Mountains. In the book, he tells some of the more significant tales of each of the mountains covered, including Snowdon, Ben Nevis, Mount Cook, the Matterhorn, Ushba, Mont Blanc, Mount Logan, Nanga Parbat, Kanchenjunga, and Mount Everest.

In the section on Mount Everest (pages 193-213), Irving discusses the 1921 reconnaissance, the 1924 attempt, and the 1933 attempt, as well as offers some interesting advice for future attempts. He is most interested in discussing the people who were given a sporting chance at the mountain, and besides the reconnaissance sticks to the narratives from Camp VI and up, including the climbs of Norton & Somerville, Mallory & Irvine, Wager & Wyn-Harris, and Shipton & Smythe. He gives the climbs of Norton, Somerville, Shipton, and Smythe precedence, and its clear that he considers supplemental oxygen unsporting. Additionally, I found it interesting to get a perspective on the disappearance of Mallory from his early climbing mentor.

He states that either a small party should climb it for the love of climbing and spurn the media, or that every possible resource should be used to get men to the top. His first idea regarding an all-out attempt, which he also believes to be the most thrifty method, would be to hire an airship to fly over the summit, and to lower some men in a basket to the summit. After setting foot on Mount Everest, these pioneers should have no trouble recouping their costs through the media. His other suggestion is to fly a plane over the Northeast Ridge and to drop an anchor with a rope attached above the Second Step, so that all the difficulties of the mountain will be removed. At times, it was difficult to tell if he was being serious or trying to pull one over on his reader, and I seriously hope he was joking about these two ideas!

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