Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Paths of Glory

I read this interesting book recently by Jeffrey Archer. The story can be described as a biography of George Mallory. He was the leader of a group of Britishers who were attempting to scale the summit of Mount Everest. He tragically died on his third attempt in 1924 and his body was found in 1999 at 8200 metres. The height of Everest is 8848 metres (29002 feet). The climbing community are still divided as to whether he reached the top or not but few doubted his capabilities. There are a couple of contentious points,

(1) One of his team members Noel Odell saw them on the second step ascending strongly to the summit which is about 600 feet from there. Did he reach the top of the world?

(2) He was climbing with a young man, Sandy Irvine whose body has never been found and neither of their Kodak Cameras have been found.

(3) He promised his wife he would leave her photo on top if he made it and when his body was found they found no photo on him!!!

The brilliant thing about that expedition was that they reached a height of about 28150 feet and none of the later expeditions even managed 24000 feet. The route they took was the North Col which is widley accepted as a difficult route compared to the South Col route which is incidentally the route taken by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. The first successful ascent from the North side was only in 1980.

Mallory was a brilliant mountaineer who could find out new routes to the top of a mountain which he had never seen before. He even attempted to climb the Eiffel Tower with bare hands only for the police to catch him. He also served the British Army in the 1st World War.

The book is a brilliant read. I would definitely recommend it although its non fiction.

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