I have always been fascinated with Everest and the lore surrounding the expeditions to conquer the third pole. I have been particularly interested in the man who when asked why he wanted to climb Everest irritatedly quipped "because it's there!" "The Lost Explorer" tells the story of the expedition that in 1999 went looking for his partner Sandy Irvine and instead found the legendary George Mallory.
The story is told with two voices. The first is David Roberts who gives historical background to the first two British expeditions in 1921 and '22 that set the stage for the dramatic events in 1924 that saw Mallory and Irvine disappear in a snowstorm and vanish into history. He follows Mallory from his youth and introduction to mountaineering through his rise to the upper echelon of the tightly knit world of climbers. But this is not a case of hero worship by Roberts. He presents Mallory as a man who was concurrently absent minded about the simple things in life and single minded in his obsession with climbing. Irvine, although not a minor figure in the drama of 1924, is drawn as an inexperienced climber who bought his ticket to immortality through his innate ability to improvise the equipment the team would need for their final assault on the roof of the world.
Conrad Anker, a well respected world-class climber, is the man who lent the book the voice of an experienced mountaineer. He tells the story of the 1999 expedition including his attempt to free-climb the Second Step. He also tells of the teams summit attempt and the trials they faced as the neared the top.
The two writers speak in different voices and from different perspectives. Anker is more matter of fact than Roberts in his prose and both balance the tragic story of the 1924 expedition and the sadly triumphant 1999.
Whether you hope to someday stand on the foot of the great mountain and view her with the awe and majesty she calls for or wish to follow the path of others up her icy and windswept slopes, buy this book.