EVEREST CANADA: THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE
Al Burgess and Jim Palmer.
Volume 12 Number 1
During the thirty years since the expedition of Sir Edmund Hillary, there has been a succession of ascents to the summit of Everest. Most of these have depended on large, military-style operations but recent debates within the elite fraternity of Himalayan mountaineers have raised ethical questions about the "purity" of such assaults. This concern has led to a series of "lightweight" and even "alpine style" successes.
British Columbia and Alberta are now called home by many world-class climbers. Canada is also a country with sponsors wealthy enough to support heavy logistical expenses. It was not until 1982, however, that a national team of any sort was organized to add the maple leaf to the bevy of flags that have been placed on the world's most prestigious peak. This is the story of that troubled adventure as told in a very personal way by one participant. There have been questions raised concerning the ability of Alan Burgess to speak for and assess the actions of his fellows, but, since he does weave the journal entries and perceived feelings of others into his account, and since his is the only version published, it is what we must accept.
What the author does give us is a book with four distinct parts, each with its own fascination. The first consists of a rambling philosophical commentary about high altitude climbing in general together with some reactions to the particular set of physical and social conditions encountered in Nepal. The second is an extremely candid version of the politics and interpersonal relationships that came close to ending the expedition during the days following the tragic deaths of three Sherpas and a Canadian cameraman. The third is a step-by-step account of the climb to the summit. The fourth, which is found throughout the text, consists of more than a hundred beautiful photographs of Nepal, its mountains, and its mountaineers.
This book is both beautiful and interesting as the sort of photographic essay that has been popularized by National Geographic. When viewed as the sort of case study of strong men under stress that can usually be found only in military histories or war novels, it is instructive and intriguing. It is certainly worthwhile reading at either level. Recommended for all Canadian secondary school and public libraries.
Howard Hurt, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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