Top positive review
Metaphorically Tougher To Put Down Than Climbing Everest
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 26, 2021
Mark Sinnott’s The Third Pole is a welcome addition to the accumulating books that
document the challenge and insanity that accompany those who accept the allure of climbing Mount Everest. As a Flatlander who has been atop ten of Colorado’s 14-teeners, it’s always amazed me that the Everest base camps are over three thousand feet higher than where I’ve been. That’s like three more “Sears” Towers higher to put it in perspective.
Synnott does a great job addressing all the concerns of reaching the top of Everest, as well as building his story around the last attempt by George Mallory and Sandy Irvine in 1924. The author documents the current fools rush toward the summit that inevitably runs the death toll ever higher on this highest of mountains, something that dulled any interest of his in Everest, until a quest was launched to find George Mallory’s partner, Sandy Irvine, and possibly the camera that might have confirmed the two had reached the summit, or not.
Their expedition is to Everest’s North Face, which means red tape galore as they had to secure permits from China, in particular for the drones they intend to bring along to aid in the search for Irvine. Background information is included about Mallory and Irvine, that fleshes out their personalities, personal relationships and skills, as well as the teams to which Mallory and Irvine were members, as well as Synnott’s own team. Synnott also informs the reader how his own adventures wrecked his first marriage, and the Everest expedition put a strain on his second.
Synnott does a nice job in explaining the difference between the South face of Everest, which includes the Khumbu icefall and its inherent dangers, and the culminating Conga line that forms, where climbers are forced to wait in line in the “Death Zone” (above 8,000 meters). The North face, though not having the recurrent nightmare of many trips through the Khumbu icefall, has its own problems, in particularly the “Second Step” that creates a bottleneck similar to the waiting points on the southern route. The author provides the reader with the litany of woes that accompany each climber as they are not only pushed toward the end of their endurance, but how the ordeal is extended by these human caused delays.
The author provides background information on the personalities responsible for surveying the region and measuring the height of Everest. He supplies the reader with the plight of the Sherpas, not only their work loads, but their pecking orders and how a successful summit of Everest can change their lives for the better. Synnott also introduces a cast of characters from other expeditions, their lives, successes and failures and everything in between.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a real page turner in front of me. Mark Synnott’s The Third Pole was a book I had trouble putting down. I enthusiastically give the book the highest rating and recommend it to anyone interested in adventure, mountaineering in general, and Everest in particular.