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I'll Climb Everest Alone

I’ll Climb Everest Alone, by Dennis Roberts. London: Robert Hale Ltd., 1957. 158 pages; ills.; maps. Price 15s.

This is the story of Captain Maurice Wilson, M.C., who undertook to climb Mount Everest alone on the basis of faith and fasting, and who ultimately perished at the foot of the North Col of the mountain at 21,500 feet, in May 1934. The point of view of the author is shown in the foreword, in which he says: “Call it madness, call it anything you like, but is there not an element of grandeur in the thought of this young man actuated perhaps by a flame of idealism, a desire to express something, to expand consciousness, to escape from fleshly shackles, to rise above all earthly considerations, setting out alone to scale the world’s highest mountain, which four elaborate expeditions of experienced mountaineers had already failed to climb?” (p. 12)

Wilson’s point of view is expressed in one of the last entries in his diary: “Weren’t we told that faith would move mountains? If I have faith enough I know that I can climb Mount Everest.” (p. 125)

In a sense, Wilson demonstrated the power of faith in that, without previous flying experience, he learned to fly, and flew a Moth Biplane solo from London to North Italy, no mean achievement in 1933. He then crossed Sikkim disguised as a Lama, went through Tibet, and ultimately attained a height of 21,500 feet on the East Rongbuk Glacier.

The author had access to Wilson’s diaries and letters, and the book is very factual. Wilson was one of those who was so affected by the horrors of the First World War that he never got back into the ordinary stream of life. He finally reached the point where he believed that if a man fasts—and fasts properly—he at last reaches a stage when his physical body and his soul are one, and he lies close to death but completely drained of all bodily and spiritual ill. On this basis he believed that he could conquer Everest alone.

Oscar R. Houston