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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dark Summit

Heil, Nick. Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season. An ARC that has been sitting around here for a while.

6 words: 2006: 11 deaths attempting Everest's summit.

Heil attempts to determine exactly what siren call lures so many climbers to Everest and to discover what went wrong in 2006, when 11 people lost their lives attempting the climb. Almost 12 people, for Lincoln Hall was reported dead, but by some miracle survived a night alone and without shelter at 8700 meters. (Hall has written his own book about his experience - Dead Lucky).

Heil admits that he didn't entirely succeed in either attempt for an explanation, yet he is able to give an interesting and detailed account of that particular season. He also gives some interesting historical background about Everest.

There were so many groups on the mountain and so many climbers in each group that it was sometimes difficult to keep track, but Russel Brice's Himex (Himalayan Experience) group included "a double amputee; a ...mechanic whose back, knee, and ankle were bolted together with metal screws; and an asthmatic who intended to summit without using oxygen."

I'll never understand the desire to risk one's life for such a miserable experience (temperatures often 30-40 degrees below zero, months on the mountain at various camps with little comfort, frostbite and loss of fingers and toes, cerebral edema - a frequently fatal form of high altitude sickness, and on and on), but climbers flock to Everest.

While I found the book interesting, I did not find it enthralling and felt it lacked a sense of continuity as Heil followed all of the threads and groups and climbers of that season as well as "flashbacks" to previous seasons.

Nonfiction. Adventure. 2008. 251 pages.

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