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2008 Reads - #1 - the Boys of Everest

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I spent more than a few minutes over the Christmas holidays organizing aspects of my life.   My closet, my home office and my photo collection all received makeovers.   The tarpits that remained included the garage (too overwhelming), my "junk" drawer and my beside table.

It is the last one that most accurately reflects the chaotic pace of 2007.  I found 30+ books in various stages of completeness, 20-30 magazines and a moleskine.

I'm quite sure upon reflection that 2007 marked not the most books read, but rather the most books started! After separating the books into several piles (the number and definition of which changed even as the piles developed - the "I might read it someday pile", the "I need to plow through it" pile, the "I might read it on a plane" pile etc)

When I finished piling and sorting the bedside table and closet based book storage overflow I was left with a pile that I'm now beginning to power through.So begins the 2008 Reads list. [amtap book:isbn=0786720247]

I've read more than a few books on mountain climbing and exploring recently as my personal interests track closely to those of my eight year old son.

The Boys of Everest tracks the evolution of the post Hillary era of Himalayan mountaineering, primarily focusing on the British climbing establishment.

As I'm not a climber, I can't impugn the accomplishment of heavily organized, siege style mountaineering (although Krakauer does just that in Into Thin Air by challenging the "buy your way up the mountain" model).

The Boys of Everest chronicles the evolution of (at least) British climbing with alpine style ascents of some of the great mountains.

A few takeaways for me on this one.The physical extremes endured are fairly easy to conceive of - we've all been cold or tired or physically exhausted - it's not a difficult stretch to imagine that amplified many times over.  What is more difficult to empathize with is the psychic endurance required by these folks.  Walking past the corpse of a recently fallen colleague to get up or down a mountain is brutal. Deciding to climb again after multiple nights with no sleep and little food. I don't think that most folks, myself included, can imagine that.

Finally, I was struck repeatedly through this book by the drive to create new paths, to climb new routes - without oxygen or without porters - always a variation from that which went before them.  It did give me pause to reflect on an line from Ansel Adams Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. He suggests that many of the exemplary photos he took in Yosemite and elsewhere are simply no longer available - the landscape has changed, the forest has grown, change has occurred.       One thing is clear - there appears to be no shortage of finding new challenges in the field of mountaineering.