Friday, November 8, 2013

Book Review – Dark Summit

Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial SeasonDark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Admittedly, this book is outside of my normal non-fiction circle. I don't normally tend to read books that recount stories, etc. I gave this book 3 stars, as I considered it just that.. an average book. It was very well researched and documented, but this wasn't a book that was suspenseful as much as it was explaining the surrounding occurrences of numerous deaths on the worlds highest peak.

At the very least, it exposes our human nature when pushed to our extreme limits, as a number of individuals on Everest seem to have been either left for dead and\or passed by in their final hours, but the stories and recollections provided almost make you understand what that happened at least some of the time. I would argue that before reading this book, I too would wonder why so many we're left behind on the mountain, but only after reading this book I can understand that any rescue operation at that altitude, in that extreme cold, and under those conditions is just a completely different animal.

What I liked about this book was that it targeted and documented some history that in a way is forgotten. I imagine in 1996 these stories we're at least somewhat important, but now in 2013, I have yet to talk to anyone in passing and say "yeah, that's almost as bad as what happened on Everest in 1996". That's not to demean what happened for the lives lost, on the contrary it's to point out that just like we have "forgotten war's" in history, so too can other tragedies of different scales be lost in time. Nick Heil does an excellent job exposing the life and trials of those who arrange, organize and ultimately decide on who makes it back alive and how on Mt. Everest.

So why the 3 stars? I didn't find this book to be as much of a page turner as I did finding it to be reading a news story. Secondly, there are a lot of names in this book. Some of the "main characters" (I suppose you can call them that) are established early and referenced often. Others however are individuals mentioned briefly at times, whether they be one of the many who traveled up the mountain and were somehow associated with the story, while other's were one of the many Sherpas who were also involved in either a rescue attempt, or who had passed by a person thought to be dead. In the end, it was just a lot of sharing ideas, thoughts or comparison of stories over the issues and circumstances surrounding so many deaths. One Sherpa says "by the time I was there he was already frozen", a second says "he was barely breathing but we gave him oxygen to try and help", and meanwhile those running the operation from a base camp are trying to coordinate who's left on the mountain and if they have a chance to survive. Again, in all, it's some interesting stuff.. but not riveting or compelling in my opinion, but still interesting for anyone who either remembers the events that took place back in 1996, or those who are familiar with mountaineering and the camaraderie that typically goes with it.

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