EVEREST CANADA: THE CLIMB OF HOPE
Volume 21 Number 3
According to Sir Edmund Hillary, who wrote the foreward for this account of a 1991 Canadian expedition to Mount Everest, this was the first time the mountain was attempted for a charitable cause. The climb, which was supported by the Canadian Rett Syndrome Association, did much to raise awareness of this neurological disease. Rett syndrome occurs in infant girls, and is a cause of severe mental retardation. For every copy of this book sold, Caitlin Press pledges to give one dollar to research into the Rett syndrome.
The social purpose connected with this Everest expedition is merely a backdrop to the story of the organizational challenges encountered by the leader, of the physical preparation of the team members, and of the climb itself. Peter Austen, the leader, put together this complex expedition and its cohesive team from his living room without the benefit of major sponsors. The pre-Everest preparations described include ascents of Mount Communism in the former Soviet Union and Popcatepetl in Mexico. Each of these climbs is a prelude to the real adventure. Everest or, as the Nepali people call it, the Goddess Mother of the World, remained unconquered in 1991 by several international teams. The Canadian team was finally repulsed by raging winds and an equivalent temperature of minus 80 degrees. Although the decision to rum back was difficult, the team rejoiced that there were no major mishaps or serious injuries.
Unfortunately, this book is not well written, and the photographs are of indifferent quality. The reader gains no real insight into the characters of the team members or of the group dynamics. There are grammatical errors and unnecessary colloquialisms. The older classic accounts of Everest attempts, such as that of Chris Bonnington, give much more information about the personalities of the participants, the technical aspects of climbing and the hardships encountered. Everest Canada is frustrating because Austen hints at many of these topics, but leaves his readers thirsty for more details. A good climber or expedition leader does not necessarily make a great writer.
Optional purchase for libraries interested in one of the few Canadian attempts on Everest.
Barbara Camfield is Chief, Reference and Information Services Division, National Library of Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario.
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