This is the second book by Mr. Horrell that I have read in as many weeks, all part of my “trying to escape from lockdown tedium” strategy, and it has certainly worked, firing me up with all kinds of crazy plans to Go Forth And Conquer.
The book tells the story exactly as per the title, namely the author’s journey from Snowdon (1085m) to Everest (8848). The subtitle of the book, “A hill walker’s journey to the top of the world” givers the book most of its easy-going, approachable flavour, for Mr. Horrell never loses sight of the fact that he is, at heart, a hill walker. It was hill-walking that drew him to mountains, and he is always at pains to tell us that he thinks of himself as a hill walker – albeit up ever higher hills.
“…it’s the story of an ordinary guy who did something slightly out of the ordinary.
I don’t regard myself as a climber. I am a simple hill walker who had a dream to climb the highest mountain on Earth.”
Mr. Horrell – he’s also from Yorkshire, so obviously a good ‘un – has a very self-deprecating approach to his achievements which I like. He is happy to highlight his own errors and mistakes, and is at pains to point out that he is climbing for fun and for the experience. For him it is not at all a question of “bagging” a summit, but rather of enjoying the process, especially in Nepal, a country he clearly loves. That approach means that when summits are not achieved, he isn’t downcast, having had marvellously exciting times in the mountains. As someone who is also a climber, though on a far less dizzy level than the author’s, I can testify to that sentiment. My last few climbs have not ended on the hoped-for summits, having been turned back by our expedition leader on weather grounds every time. But I still had the most brilliant time, and made memories for life.
Mr. Horrell never takes himself too seriously. This is him in his early days, in Wales:
“I wasn’t feeling quite as smug when the slope of the rock eased and I found my way back onto the trail. I was panting with relief and I knew I had been lucky to make it down without injury. But I was better for the experience, and I didn’t need to tell anyone how frightened I had been.
When I arrived back at the Pen-y-Pass car park, my father was already waiting.
“How was that?” he asked.
“It was great fun, I really enjoyed it. You should have come,” I said, learning to lie like every good mountaineer before and since, who has experienced selective recall after an exhilarating ascent.”
With the author we travel the world as he climbs ever higher, gaining confidence and learning how to be a mountaineer. By the time he sets out to climb Mount Everest from the Tibetan side, we the readers are fully committed to his attempt. He describes in vivid detail not only the exhilaration of tackling Everest, but also the days of humdrum waiting for the weather gods to do their stuff, as well as the horrors of seeing his first frozen corpse as he climbs.
I enjoyed the Everest part of the book enormously, since the author becomes a little more reflective, putting the 1924 climb by Mallory & Irvine in perspective, thinking of them, and of the successful 1953 team, as he himself inches ever close to the summit.
A good read.
A funny, unpretentious, non-technical read.
And an inspiring read, truly.