Eric Shipton recounts the discoveries of his 1951 journey to the southern side of Everest in The Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition. He had just returned from a diplomatic posting in China when Campbell Secord invited him to lead the expedition, that would begin three months later. Secord, Murray, Michael Ward, and Tom Bourdillon were already set to make the journey (though Secord later bows out), but Shipton's reputation gave the trip a more official feel as well as the backing of the Himalayan Committee. Just before their departure, Shipton received a letter from the president of the New Zealand Alpine Club asking if two of their members who were already in the area could join them. Earl Riddiford and Edmund Hillary were able to catch up to during the trek to the mountain. They check out the southern side of the mountain and reconnoiter the Khumbu Icefall, finding a path up to the Western Cwm, and scout from afar a possible route up the Lhotse Face to the South Col. While the ice is setting at the end of the monsoon, they also make a number of exploratory trips to nearby areas, including Cho Oyu, Melungtse, and Makalu.
The book is short on prose, but has a number of pictures. The storyline cuts out after their exploration to the west of Everest, and does not detail their return home, or their discovery in Kathmandu that the Swiss would have the first shot at the mountain in 1952. Shipton even neglects to introduce each of the expedition members. I wonder a bit if he wrote this book after finding out at he was no longer to lead the 1953 Everest climb, or perhaps if he was too busy setting up the 1952 Cho Oyu training climb to give this book much thought. The pictures cover their journey from Sherpa country to their discovery of "Yeti" tracks near Melungtse, and are more journalistic than artistic. It's great to see Bourdillon and Hillary with full scruffy beards. There are a number of shots of Everest that must have been fascinating to those who had closely followed the British attempts on the mountain from the north, including a detailed shot of the Khumbu Icefall and a nice picture from the ramparts of Pumori of the upper southwest side of the mountain. Also included are the earlier aerial photographs that inspired Michael Ward to get this trip started in the first place.