What a great read this book is, and reading it in cold, wintery conditions, whilst on holiday in the Himalayan hills of Uttarkhand in northern India, made it a perfect fit.
Conrad Anker and David Roberts delve into one of the long-standing mysteries of high-altitude mountaineering, namely whether George Mallory & Sandy Irvine summited Mount Everest in 1924, thus making them the first men to reach the highest point on earth, years before Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay.
The two writers alternate chapters in the book, combining and intertwining two voyages of discovery.
Mr. Roberts writes about the 1924 expedition that ended with the deaths of Mallory & Irving and, alongside this, Mr. Anker chronicles his own ascent of Everest, 75 years later, when he set out to try and solve the 1924 mystery. It is not a plot-spoiler that on his expedition in 1999, Mr. Anker found George Mallory’s frozen body a little below the summit of Everest: indeed, the full title of this gripping read is “The Lost Explorer Finding Mallory on Mount Everest.”
Having found George Mallory’s body and some of his belongings, and having tried to retrace his steps as far as possible, Mr. Anker has his own expert view as to whether the two men summitted, but it is just his theory, and speculation still remains.
Mr. Roberts uses letters and diaries to bring the expeditions of the 1920s to life, with their political intrigue and an almost “jobs for the boys” attitude, which saw older, less experienced, less fit men put in charge of expeditions.
Mr. Anker is a hugely accomplished climber, and his enthusiasm shines through every word he writes – and what is admirable is that he doesn’t try and impress us with technical talk. Even if you have never set foot on a mountain, his writing is accessible and easily understood. And he certainly doesn’t shy away from the cruel realities and risks of climbing, and there are some serious heart-stopping moments.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book which is inspiring – well, theoretically, since there are two inspiring stories, it is doubly inspiring.