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The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest Kindle Edition
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Everest, the major motion picture from Universal Pictures, is set for wide release on September 18, 2015. Read The Climb, Anatoli Boukreev (portrayed by Ingvar Sigurðsson in the film) and G. Weston DeWalt’s compelling account of those fateful events on Everest.
In May 1996 three expeditions attempted to climb Mount Everest on the Southeast Ridge route pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Crowded conditions slowed their progress. Late in the day twenty-three men and women-including expedition leaders Scott Fischer and Rob Hall-were caught in a ferocious blizzard. Disoriented and out of oxygen, climbers struggled to find their way down the mountain as darkness approached. Alone and climbing blind, Anatoli Boukreev brought climbers back from the edge of certain death. This new edition includes a transcript of the Mountain Madness expedition debriefing recorded five days after the tragedy, as well as G. Weston DeWalt's response to Into Thin Air author Jon Krakauer.
From the Publisher
- ASIN : B0140MQVI8
- Publisher : St. Martin's Griffin; 2nd edition (September 22, 2015)
- Publication date : September 22, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 2637 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 409 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #314,663 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the authors
Reviewed in the United States on July 2, 2022
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Top reviews from the United States
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There is no doubt that Krakauer is a gifted writer who can develop detailed characters and back-stories. It may be thanks to him that the general public even cares about Everest today. But...
To have painted such an ugly and misleading picture of Boukreev is nearly criminal, and full of envious slander.
I am not an Alpinist or professional climber. I did play and coach university soccer. I trained, taught and competed nearly 25 years at national level Taekwondo and spend another 20 years hiking and bouldering in the Rockies of Colorado. I only say this to suggest I've observed and learned much about how the body works - and the differences between weekend warriors and those who've spent a lifetime in deliberate training (like Boukreev).
As I read Boukreev's account, it exemplified what a dedication he had to Alpinism. Is was not a hobby or a bucket list goal, no, it was his life and passion. Anatoli was trained and life-hardened for exactly this line of work, and the best judge of the 1996 Everest expedition and what transpired. The entire thing has been glamorized and popularized to make money by sending up hordes of unfit people. Anatoli saw this and knew it was wrong. He said something like "money cannot buy experience" and how true this rings for high altitude climbing.
The Climb reads fairly dry, and you may not appreciate the details of the many up and down acclimatization trips taken. But in this book and account you will see Alpinism through the eyes of a true old school climber. He states his thoughts plainly, if a little woodenly. Even his decisions at altitude make sense to me - where your head and training must supersede emotional heroism. In fact, because of his training, climbing protocols and decades of experience - he saved lives!
When I first began reading "The Climb", it felt like somewhat of a rebuttal to "Into Thin Air" and it's evident that there are passages throughout the book that are meant to defend against statements made in Krakauer's account. In fact, I firmly believed I would not like the book because of Krakauer's interpretation of Boukreev's behavior on the mountain.
After completing this book, I re-read Krakauer's book and felt that his criticisms of Boukreev were a bit harsh, particularly harping on Anatoli's choice to not use oxygen. Most formidable high-altitude mountain guides DO use oxygen when guiding even if they choose not to use when they are climbing for their own pleasure and doctors will tell you that it's ludicrous to believe that one would be better off or even as well off without supplemental oxygen as they would with it; however, most experienced high-altitude mountaineers will also tell you that being on oxygen and running out is WORSE than never having used oxygen at all. Eric Simonson has said that running out of oxygen at high altitude is equivalent to putting your head inside a plastic bag and duct-taping it around your neck. Anatoli always stated that, as a guide using oxygen, he might need to give it up his oxygen (which he did carry) to a needy client which would greatly hinder his ability to guide. Boukreev was one of those rare humans who are physiologically suited for high altitude and besides, at no time did Anatoli's lack of oxygen have any bearing on the way he guided that day.
It's evident from reading his book that Boukreev firmly believed if you were on Mt. Everest then you should be capable of climbing it. He was very much against the idea of "babysitting" clients with questionable mountaineering skills up a mountain that they had no business being on. One odd thing about Boukreev is that he was almost like half-Sherpa and half-guide. He assisted with hauling gear to the higher camps and fixed rope in several difficult areas along the route. Krakauer seemed to exaggerate the altercations that Anatoli had with Scott Fischer, however, Krakauer was able to see that Fischer was being affected by the altitude where Boukreev recognizes that Fischer is tired, but still trusts Fischer to make crucial decisions on summit day, the biggest of which was allowing Boukreev to descend ahead of the clients to prepare provisions for the climbers in the event that he needed to head back up the mountain in a rescue effort. Of course, one detail that Krakauer left out or wasn't aware of was that Boukreev believed that the team had NO sherpas left at Camp IV and that someone would need to prepare tea for the exhausted incoming climbers and insure that they got oxygen, hydration, etc. Also, if a rescue from Camp IV were necessary, he needed to rehydrate and rest himself in order to go back up the mountain. As we all know, this is exactly what occurred. So, it may have been flawed thinking, but he BELIEVED that he was doing the right thing and it was agreed upon between he and Fischer that this would be the plan. If he can be faulted at all, it might be for not recognizing that Scott Fischer was probably incapable of making a clear decision in his altitude-affected state. That being said, Scott Fischer was not one to let on that he was hurting and he was Boukreev's boss. Many of us don't question our bosses when we believe they may be making a bad decision.
After re-reading "Into Thin Air", I realized that there were big gaps in Krakauer's account, not the least of which is his trek from the top of the Hillary Step to the South Summit without oxygen. In Krakauer's book, he mentions how Andy Harris has turned his oxygen up instead of down like he asked him to do and then he ran out of oxygen. Then he says that the "Step" cleared, he went down and then he goes into his encounter with Andy Harris at the South Summit oxygen cache. In "The Climb", Boukreev tells of how Krakauer nearly fell to his death stumbling across the unroped area along the South ridge in his oxygen-deprived state. Krakauer never makes mention of this and probably because he doesn't remember it. Let's not forget that Krakauer thought Martin Adams was Andy Harris and actually communicated to Base Camp that Harris had safely returned to Camp IV when, in fact, Harris was somewhere around the South Summit.
It is my opinion that Krakauer was much more severely affected by the high altitude on that day than Boukreev was and, as a result, I trust Anatoli's memory of the events more than I do that of Krakauer even if "The Climb" was written in rebuttal to "Into Thin Air". It goes without saying that had Anatoli not guided the mountain in the manner which he did, that more people would have died in those days and the altitude-affected recollection of John Krakauer isn't enough to convince me that the opposite is true. One thing that all climbers on that mountain will agree on is that if there is a villain in this tragic story, it was Ian Woodall, leader of the South African expedition.
Top reviews from other countries
JK’s book placed the blame pretty squarely at the doors of the two expedition leaders. But the book was so successful because JK was pretty good at making the characters involved come alive. Which makes the book more interesting, but of course runs the risk that some people may not like the way they’re described.
One of those who didn’t was Anatoli Boukreev. JK didn’t blame him for the deaths, and AB probably came off better in the book than some of the other people (especially Sandy Hill Pittman), but the difference was that AB was a professional climber, and people get very touchy when their professional competence is criticised.
So, AB wanted to put his side of the story. Which is why this book got written. And that should have been that, but JK felt that this book insulted his own professional competence. So, then there was a pointless slanging match which ended up being mainly between JK, and AB’s ghost writer G. Weston Dewalt (who wins the prize for the silliest name).
It was a pointless war because there were really only two areas of disagreement. The first was whether professional guides should always use oxygen, and that’s one of those technical debates with good points on both sides. The second was whether AB had the permission of his leader to descend on his own, or only with one of the client climbers. This is an utterly pointless argument because it wouldn’t have affected anything – the client climber in question made it down perfectly safely, and if AB had stuck with him it would only have delayed him a bit.
So, this book is probably not worth reading for the argument, but it is an interesting book for AB’s life story and his experiences and viewpoints. A rule of thumb is that when AB is talking, it’s a good and interesting book, but when his ghost writer is talking it’s largely rubbish – the ghost writer clearly doesn’t know a lot about climbing, and only really cares about stoking the controversy.
But if you only read one book about these events, don’t read this one. Read JK’s – it’s a classic even if not 100% fair to everyone in every case.
By the way, one of the interesting things that comes out of reading both books is that there’s a very clear candidate for JK’s source for his comments about AB. Remember that JK wasn’t on the same expedition as AB, and he wouldn’t have had much experience of AB himself. As a self-respecting journalist (and no-one could accuse JK of not being self-respecting), he’d have had a source.
Oh, and if you do buy this book, read the transcript at the end. You’ll find out a lot more about the characters involved by hearing them in their own voices.
The first half of the book is interesting – surprisingly so, and well-written – and fills in gaps in the story in the same way that Lou Kasischke’s After The Wind casts a different light on many of the things which Krakauer writes about. Boukreev saw his role as more Sherpa than guide. He was there for his stamina and mountaineering skills. He sounds taken aback when Scott Fischer admonishes him for not interacting more with the clients: helping them put up their tents and so on. He did not see his role as “hand-holding”. Like the Sherpa, he was there to blaze the trail, fix the ropes and act in a sort of fireman’s role.
Krakauer, who was not even on the same team, derides Boukreev as ‘the guide who abandoned his clients’, but that is not how it comes across in this version. Boukreev was his own man. If he felt that it was the right thing to go back down to Camp IV to be ‘on call’ in case help was needed later, that was his decision. There is a lot of discussion about whether or not Fischer told him to go back down, but this seems like a moot point. All of the Mountain Madness clients survived while many of Krakauer’s Adventure Consultants co-climbers did not.
The chronology runs through the acclimatisation phase to the May 10 summit push and the rescues at Camp IV. Then it gives way to the familiar “Krakauer v Boukreev” claims and counter-claims which are frankly neither here nor there. Everything that you read in all the books written about May 1996 – Fischer’s exhaustion and health problems, confusion over rope-fixing and oxygen, missing the turnaround times, problems with the Sherpa, the pressure of having journalists on the team – all points to just a colossal screw-up in which poor planning, bad execution and the fickle Everest weather conspired to claim so many lives.
Into Thin Air is a fine book which captured the imagination and is still provoking comment more than 20 years after the events described. While it may not be as slick, The Climb is a fascinating take on the story which brings out the personality of Boukreev, this immensely tough, very Russian, machine-like mountaineer who survived all this only to lose his life on Annapurna just 18 months later.
What I thought after reading Into Thin Air and before reading The Climb:
Lots of holes in a cheese aligned to make the tragedy
Anatoli Boukreev was a hero
Jon Krakauer spent the night of the disaster in a tent. He was the only client to summit and survive from his team - he must have felt guilty about that. He must have wanted someone else to blame to mitigate that guilt - he chose Aantoli. He came across rather arrogant and dismissive of people more expert than him. I wonder why many more people didn't question his motives after reading Into Thin Air? It certainly didn't seem right to me at the time.
What I learned from The Climb:
My reading between the lines of Into Thin Air seemed entirely correct. In fact, Anatoli Boukreev's account rings even more true, especially as the debriefing tapes confirm the consistency of his story.
Jon Krakauer was even worse than I thought (what appear to be deliberate inconsistencies in his story vs others' accounts). It isn't pleasant or constructive to lay blame as he did.
G Weston DeWalt has clearly spent a lot of time getting everything correct and making sure he got all his facts straight when writing the book. You can see the care and thought put into it, not to grab the readers attention with drama and lies, but to give a clear and true account.
Overall, this book lays the record straight without pointing the finger of blame, but illustrating how such as disaster occurred. Questions remain unanswered, but this gives the reader enough to know what to think. I would not recommend Into Thin Air and I would definitely recommend this, as a more balanced, and better researched, and fair portrayal.