"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Notes on Everest Before the Summit Push

For the most up-to-date information on climbing and Alan's support of Alzheimer's research, visit www.alanarnette.com

UPDATE ON ALAN ARNETTE'S CLIMB of Mount Everest, In Progress

Those of you who check in regularly know I've been following Alan Arnette's climb of Mount Everest. He is doing so to raise funds for Alzheimer's research. At this moment, he is waiting for a break in the weather prior to pushing for the summit of the world's highest peak. Here is a link to his most recent blog post from Everest Base Camp in Nepal:

A Review of A Great Everest Book

Touching My Father's Soul: A Sherpa's Journey to the Top of EverestTouching My Father's Soul: A Sherpa's Journey to the Top of Everest by Jamling Tenzing Norgay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I read this book, I kept feeling sorry for people who only know Mt. Everest through Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. They are missing out. It's not that Mr. Norgay's book is better, only that it offers a sharply different perspective. Put another way, this book taught me that a true understanding of Everest cannot be achieved from the perspective of only one nationality or ethnicity.

Like so many people, I thought the term "Sherpa" was just a job title, not the name of an entire people with a history and culture independent of their iconic vocation. This book takes a deep and personal look into the life of Sherpa through the eyes of one of their prominent sons. It is also a multi-generational story, because the author--Jamling Tenzing Norgay—is the son of the Sherpa who successfully climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953.

In particular, I enjoyed Mr. Norgay's exploration of Buddhism, and especially how the climb helped him make peace with his late father. The author describes Buddhist rituals that all climbers participate in, whether out of genuine faith or obligation. He describes frankly the tension created with his wife when deciding to climb. And most touching is the seamlessly woven story of his father's summiting Everest almost a half-century prior.

For anyone wanting to understand the international culture of Mt. Everest, this book is a must-read. It also offers a fascinating discussion on Tibetan Buddhism. And if Mr. Norgay's devotion to his faith sometimes results in an unbalanced, less-objective rendering of the Everest experience, this is forgivable. He writes with an awareness of this bias. In the end, he hopes that the culture of Everest will bring all people together, as it brought together a father and son.

Kudos also to Broughton Coburn for his role in bringing this story to print.

View all my reviews

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