Friday, 23 October 2015

Book Review: The Chomolungma Diaries by Mark Horrell

Are you tired of reading mountaineering disaster stories which tarnish the reputation of Everest by focusing on all that's negative about climbing it? Are you longing to read an account that more accurately reflects what a commercial expedition to climb Everest is really like?

The Chomolungma Diaries is the journal of Mark Horrell's expedition to climb Everest from the north side in 2012, a year when there were many fatalities on the south side. While the world's media were working themselves into a frenzy about the queues of commercial climbers and the personal tragedies taking place on the other side of the mountain, Mark's team were quietly getting on with the job of preparing to summit from the north. It follows the hopes and the disappointments, the excitement and the boredom, the banter and the arguments of a team of ordinary people preparing for the biggest day of their lives; and it highlights the superhuman efforts of the Sherpas in helping them to achieve their dream

But nothing about Everest is ordinary, and there's more than enough excitement when your life is clipped into a narrow line of cord five miles above the Earth. Those who think Everest is easy have never been up onto the Northeast Ridge and experienced the world's most terrifying ridge walk. This diary will bring you just a little bit closer to that experience.

My Review:
This book is about a climbing expedition on the North Face of Everest. It sounds like a very wild and windy environment even at Base Camp compared to what I have read about those on the South side. Both sides of the mountain of course have their own unique challenges.

Mark's challenges begin with twitchy Chinese officials at the border and keeping up with everyone else in the alcohol drinking stakes. That's all everyone seems to do is sit around getting drunk every chance they get. If I had spent all that time and money getting to Everest I'd be concentrating on getting as much food and water into me as I could and getting more sleep for the tough days ahead instead of getting pissed daily. If I wanted to do that, I could do it at home much cheaper with a tikka masala and a good film on dvd.

Tensions are high when a Russian priest plans to put a cross on the mountain top which is disgusting and rude. To go into a country as a guest and to offend the people by planning a stunt like this shows why the church is so out of touch with people today. This man should have been thrown out the country and banned from coming back.

Mark finds it is the struggle of keeping going step after step and pushing through the pain and tiredness that is so difficult. I can't imagine how stubborn you must be to force yourself on when it is so much easier to give up. I was cheering Mark on every step of the way and hoping he would make it.

It is on the descent of the mountain that something bizarre happens. Mark and his sherpa are stuck behind someone who seems have gone a bit mad, trying to stop them passing or getting away from him. It is a hairy descent anyway by the sound of it but you just don't need this kind of drama! Mark then passes another man who is still on his way up alone and will be attempting to descend in the dark, to Mark's alarm. A lot of people might be sniffing about how climbers should do more to help get these people to safety but I don't agree. Mark and his guide are responsible for getting themselves down safely. If others choose to push boundaries or refuse help and advice, you have to just go ahead and save yourself instead of dying with them.

This was a really good travel diary and the best of the series. It really gives you an insight into the boredom of Base Camp, the conditions and physical cost of the climb and how easy tragedy can unfold around you.  
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