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Alone to Everest. An Innocent on Everest

Alone to Everest, by Earl Denman. 255 pages, 13 photographs. London: Collins, 1954. Price, $2.38.

An Innocent on Everest, by Ralph Izzard. 318 pages. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1954.

When some great achievement, book, or play, has attracted great public interest and acclaim, one may expect a spate of works of lesser merit on the same subject. These two books fall within this category. However, anyone who wishes to read everything that has been written about Everest will want to read them.

Mr. Denman’s book is divided into two parts; the first is an account of the ascent of eight volcanic peaks of the Virunga range. This is the area of equatorial Africa in which Carl Akeley studied gorillas and has now become the Albert National Park, a game preserve intended primarily to protect the animals. The author made all his ascents accompanied only by local porters and at a minimum of expense, thus carrying the doctrine of the “small expedition” to its logical extreme.

The remainder of the book is devoted to his expedition in 1947 from Darjeeling, following the route of the earlier British expeditions through Tibet to the Rongbuk Monastery and thence up the glacier to the North Col. At Darjeeling he was fortunate in securing the services of Tenzing (later one of the conquerors of Everest) and Ang Dawa. He had no permission to enter Tibet, so the expedition had to proceed secretly. With the exception of one threatening encounter, however, he was not interfered with and, accompanied by his two able sherpas, succeeded in getting part way up the North Col and returning safely to Darjeeling. The book contains much rather naive alpinism and even more naive philosophy, but it has an interest as a demonstration of what one man without help or money can do if he has sufficient determination.

Mr. Izzard is a reporter on the staff of The Daily Mail. The 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition had sold exclusive rights to the story of the expedition to the London Times and the competitive spirit of journalism inspired The Daily Mail to send Mr. Izzard to “gate-crash” the trip. With a hastily organized scratch party, he trailed the Hunt expedition from Katmandu to the Khumbu glacier at the foot of the icefall and then returned to Katmandu while the expedition was at the higher altitudes on the mountain. He supplied The Daily Mail with very readable articles from time to time on the way up and down, and apparently succeeded quite well in “scooping” the Times’ exclusive story. The book has all the merits and demerits of journalism. It is written with a facile pen and dwells particularly on personal adventures and human idiosyncracies. It repeats all the standard statements about the people and the country, and sometimes makes categorical statements on questions which have been the subject of debate for years.

The ninth chapter is devoted to a review of all that has been said and written about the Abominable Snowman. Since the book was written, Mr. Izzard in 1954 headed a second expedition to the Everest area on behalf of The Daily Mail, to pursue the Abominable Snowman to his ultimate lair. This doubtless presages a second book.

Oscar R. Houston