Vascos al Himalaya: 1974-1992, crónica de una aventura. Antonio Ortega, editor. Pyrenaica. Bilbao, Spain, 1992. 264 pages, 364 color illustrations. Hardbound.
Everest: el desafío de un sueño. Rodrigo Jordán. Editora Ograma, Santiago, Chile, 1992. 122 pages, 84 color and 8 black-and-white illustrations, 2 line drawings. Hardbound.
Everest: la ruta lógica. Mauricio Purto. El Mercurio, Santiago, Chile, 192. 132 pages, 124 color and 2 black-and-white illustrations. Hardbound.
Mountaineering books in Spanish are fairly common, but little known outside the Hispanic nations themselves. These three have in common their topic (the higher mountains of Asia), their size (large album format) and all three aim at portraying the endeavor of a people, Basque or Chilean.
The Basque work is a magnificent one. The quality of its printing is enviable. It narrates by means of a rich text and an abundance of excellent color pictures the achievements (and failures) of the Basques in the mountains of high Asia. The chronicle covers from 1974 (an attempt on Everest and an ascent of Shakhaur, 7084 meters) to 1992, when no less than eighteen Basque parties were active in Asia, among other things, to ascend Everest four times and Cho Oyu thrice. A total of 136 expeditions, most of them successful, are reviewed. The book closes with statistics of many kinds. And while it is true, as editor Ortega recognizes, that the Basques have preferred to head for the greater mountains only, disregarding exploratory work, it is also true that their activity in Asia has been remarkable.
The two other books aim at describing the twin 1992 Chilean expeditions to Everest. They reached their goal by different ways and routes. Jordán led his seven-man team up the Kangshung side of Everest, this being the third ascent of that face. It was the work of a dedicated team. It reached the summit on May 14, 1992. Purto, on the other hand, named his book “The Logical Way to Everest” for he believed that in order to reach the apex of the earth, climbers had to follow a long preparation. Leading small teams he did, among other enterprises, the traverse of the summits of McKinley, an ascent of Vinson in the Antarctic as well as others of Cho Oyu, Shisha Pangma and Gasherbrum II, a process of five years. Well trained, he and the tough Sherpa Ang Rita reached the top of Everest on May 14, 1992. To their mutual surprise, by sheer coincidence both Chilean teams met on the summit the same day, same time. There was rivalry. In fact, the Jordán work does not mention that their countrymen also made the summit. Both books are different. Jordán’s is bilingual (Spanish and English) and describes the ascent of the Kangshung face step by step. There are a great number of quotations from British climbers, no doubt because Jordán has lived in England. His book is complemented by a 96-minute long video. The Purto book, wholly in Spanish, is more succinct in text and allows instead its ample and very descriptive pictures to tell a good part of the story. Seven mountains in three continents are portrayed and there is again a diversity of quotations from climbers and philosophers.
The main contribution of these three works is that they show the technical level achieved by peoples of other nations and at the same time, provide an insight as to how others may react in the face of the giant mountains of our planet. The Basque book, in particular, is to be recommended. The quality and quantity of its pictures would alone justify its acquisition.