cover image High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed

High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed

Michael Kodas, . . Hyperion, $24.95 (357pp) ISBN 978-1-4013-0273-3

Journalist Kodas has written a disturbing account of stupidity and greed on the slopes of Mount Everest. On assignment for the Hartford Courant in 2004, Kodas joined an expedition led by a couple who had summited the mountain more than a dozen times between them. As he moved up Everest, Kodas watched his expedition disintegrate in a mess of recriminations, thefts, lies and violence. At the same time, a sociopathic guide was leading a 69-year-old doctor to his death on the unforgiving slopes. The twin disasters led Kodas to delve into the commercialization of Mount Everest, and to discover that such experiences were becoming a depressing norm. A thorough reporter, Kodas does an excellent job exposing the ways in which money and ego have corrupted the traditional cultures of both mountaineers and their Sherpa guides. He also brings a painful focus to the delusions, misunderstandings and indifference that allow climbers to literally step over the bodies of dying people on their way to the top. Oddly enough, Kodas writes less ably about himself, and the reasons for his own expedition's collapse remain unclear; the sequencing of story lines is confusing as well. Nevertheless, his narrative is as hard to turn away from as a slow-motion train wreck. (Feb.)