Saturday, April 16, 2011

Climb, edited by Clint Willis

Climb is one of the many adventure compilations put together by Clint Willis. This one is a bit of a greatest hits book, with a lot of famous authors, and seems to focus a bit towards the American climbing scene. There are several Everest-related authors, including David Roberts (co-author of several Everester biographies including Ed Viesturs' No Shortcuts to the Top), Greg Child (Postcards from the Ledge), John Long (The High Lonesome and others), Jim Wickwire (Addicted to Danger), Hamish MacInnes (The Mammoth Book of Mountain Disasters, etc.), Andrew Grieg (Kingdoms of Experience), Galen Rowell (Mountains of the Middle Kingdom and other photo books), John Roskelley (Stories Off the Wall). Jim Wickwire's chapter, from Addicted to Danger, tells of the loss of a young friend and climbing partner, Chris Kerrebrock, on a trip to Denali that was meant as a shakedown trip for a Great Couloir attempt the following year. They both fall into a crevasse soon after their drop-off, and Wickwire is unable, with a injured arm, to dislodge Kerrebrock, and faces an epic retreat and impossibly long wait for rescue. Only one chapter in Climb, however, deals directly with Everest: Greg Child's contribution from Postcards from the Ledge, "How I Almost (Didn't) Climb Everest."

In this chapter, he goes to Everest to film an old friend, Tom Whittaker (author of Higher Purpose) in his first attempt to climb Mount Everest with a prosthetic leg in 1995. They make it up to the Northeast Ridge together, but Whittaker has to turn back, and he encourages Child to continue on without him. As he ascends, Child catches up to Bob Hempstead (whose trip to the top to become the highest rope-slinger in the world is covered in David Noland's Travels Along the Edge) in time to see him slip and fall down the mountain on his back, head first, coming to a stop at the edge of the snowfield, just before the really big fall to the bottom of the mountain. Child finds a rope, and pulls him to safety along with Ang Babu Sherpa, and they again head for the summit.

Greg Child is possibly my favorite climbing author. He approaches Everest with a bit of a disdainful eye, but he makes the most of it and through intelligent humor manages to make the story enjoyable in spite of the insanity around him. Maybe Michael Kodas (High Crimes) could get a couple lessons from Child in not taking things so personally while still dishing out the details. Child still talks about the thefts, the suicidal fools, and the generally lawlessness, but manages to stand apart from it. (He really is a different breed than the average Everest climber). I highly recommend Child's book, Postcards from the Ledge, from which this is excerpted. The Mountain Library recently released a review of it in case you'd like to learn more.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, 1995 was Tom Whittaker's second attempt on Everest. His first was in 1989 via the South Col Route. Awful weather pinned him and others in the Western Cwm, and they had a narrow escape through chest-high snow. Many people died lower on the mountain in other Himalayan base camps. Not a good time for climbers!