TO THE TOP: The Story of Everest

Stephen Venables, Author
Stephen Venables, Author . Candlewick $17.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-7636-2115-5
Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-1-84428-725-3
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Both for readers who love climbing and for those who wonder why anyone would risk death to reach a mountaintop, this book overcomes its somewhat institutional appearance to offer an exciting, informed history of the exploration of the world's tallest peak. Venables, an expert climber who left his own mark on Everest in 1988, describes the rise of mountaineering as a 19th-century European pastime as it coincided with the efforts of British mapmakers to survey the Himalayas from afar (foreigners were allowed to enter neither Tibet nor Nepal). Then the author turns to the various expeditions to Everest, paying special attention to the first British team that set out to map the mountain in 1921 and to the first successful climb in 1953. Venables skillfully contrasts the past and present via carefully chosen details (e.g., the Britons' 250-mile caravan trip from Darjeeling in 1921; a 1924 mountaineer describes the "hateful duty of high altitude cooking"). The author also brings his own passion to the narrative, conveying the romance of the summit and of being "completely alone, higher than any other human being on earth." Charged descriptions of his 1988 climb, including a night spent without shelter on the mountain, will have readers on the edge of their seats. Photographs and maps enhance the narrative to some extent, but do not always do justice to the majesty of their subject. Ages 9-up. (May)

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