Tirich Mir Til Topps, by the Norwegian Himalayan Expedition. 176 pages, with 54 half-tone illustrations, four color plates and three maps. Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1950.
This is the official account, in Norwegian, of the first ascent of Tirich Mir in 1950 by a party of nine Norwegians and a British officer stationed in Chitral. The 14 chapters are by eight different members of the expedition, and the foreword is by Professor Morgenstierne. The story is told simply, without embellishments other than the excellent photographs.
Following a reconnaissance in 1949 by two Norwegians (who almost reached the top), the main party set out early in 1950. Preparations and testing of equipment were thorough. The climbers were selected after lengthy examinations, including exposure in low pressure chambers. Primus stoves were modified to operate at low atmospheric pressures. Sunburn cream was subjected to spectroscopic tests, and the caloric value of all food was determined. No doubt the success of the expedition was due in part to the extremely careful attention to details.
The use of ski poles all the way to the top lent a typically Norwegian touch. Climbers used them to steady themselves in deep snow and to lean on when they were resting with heavy loads. Each climber carried two adjustable metal ski poles. Skis were not used. In the chapter on assessment of results, there is unanimous agreement that ski poles were highly advantageous. Perhaps this conclusion will be of interest to future expeditions to snow mountains.
Multiple authorship carries certain disadvantages in so far as the unity of narrative is concerned, but it does not impair the interest in the present book. Furthermore, one can read a chapter on equipment alone and find a complete discussion of just that. The lists of medicines, however, might well have been relegated to the appendix.
Tirich Mir Til Topps follows the pattern of many expedition accounts: preparations, journey to India, polo with local potentates, trials with packers, group photograph of the bearded members of the party—all in the tradition of mountaineering books. But this report has its own freshness and vigor, which have made it the best seller in Norway since Kon-Tiki.
Henry I. Baldwin