Makalu, by Jean Franco. Translated from the French by Denise Morin.
London: Jonathan Cape, 1957. 256 pages; ills.; maps. Price 25s.
The ascent of Makalu in 1955, as with all the 8000-meter peaks, was a superb achievement accomplished by a group of highly competent mountaineers. Jean Franco tells their story in narrative form, with occasional use of dialogue, without overworking the popular theme of camp-to-camp routine spiced with dashes of sensation. He asks us at the start ”… to sit down at our table, unshaven like the rest of us, to hear the songs of the Sherpas and the wind whistling over the moraine, and to climb up slowly through a fascinating world of high mountains until he stands with us upon the summit, with three-quarters of the Asian continent at his feet.”
His descriptions of the approach march through Nepal are interesting. We are introduced to various Nepalese, who happen upon the expedition on its way up along the Arun River. He shows great warmth of feeling for the Sherpas, who help bring the party toward the summit of Makalu. The ascent of the mountain went quite smoothly, which speaks well for their organization and planning. Rarely does more than one party reach the summit of such a mountain, yet, with the blessing of good weather, the entire climbing team, including a few Sherpas, reached the summit during a 72-hour period.
Makalu does not show the craftsmanship that is exhibited in Annapurna. In the latter book, Herzog created strong personalities through the continued use of dialogue and conveyed a vivid realism to the story that is not easy to attain. Franco uses this technique to a lesser degree, but it makes his story very readable.