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Everest: The Ultimate Challenge 1922-1982

Everest: The Ultimate Challenge 1922-1982. A stereo sound history of sixty years of struggle to climb the world’s highest mountain. Quarry Lane Productions, P.O. Box 1237, Alexandria, Ontario KOC 1AO $9.99 (U.S.) including postage.

If one can cut through the heraldic trumpets and heavy choral backgrounds, there is some good stuff here: reminiscing voices of Odell, Hunt, Scott, Habeier, Messner and that absolutely natural performer, Ed Hillary. My favorite passage is writer Jan Morris’ eagle-eyed observation of the camp scene as Hillary and Lowe descend into the camp. Alas, when the memorabilia is good, it is too quickly over. The musical themes out of the film Chariots of Fire resume their ponderous way; the narrative goes for the heartstrings over good factual reporting.

“WASPs on Everest” is the hidden subtitle of this tape cassette. With the exception of Habeler and Messner, everyone interviewed is to English born. The only non-English speaking expeditions referred to at all on the history, and then only in passing, are the Swiss in 1952, the Chinese first ascent of the North Face, and the first woman, a Japanese, to make the summit. The story also spends a tedious time raking up the Francophobia of the 1971 CHEKC International Expedition.

The point of this ethnocentrism unfolds towards the end, however. We are told nothing of the exploits of the Indians, the Italians, the Swiss, the Poles, the Yugoslavs, the French and half a dozen other nationalities simply, by omission, to add lustre to the very common o’ garden results of the Canadians in 1982, with which the story closes. Unfortunately any glory that attends the telling of the Canadian effort has to be at the price of insulting hundreds of non-WASPs who got there sooner and climbed Everest more valiantly.

John Thackray