When I first came across The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev and G.Weston DeWalt, I wasn’t in the mood for a retelling of an expedition to Mt.Everest that most probably went wrong.
A few weeks later, I made this plan to visit Kathmandu, got my parents onboard, figured out flight plans and was almost about to purchase a ticket when I just backed out of the whole plan.
During that planning phase I went to the same bookshop and figured whether I go on this trip or not, reading about a collective effort by ambitious people, trying to summit the World’s highest peak would be nothing less than impactful and motivational.
I may not have flown to see Mt.Everest but I sure did feel thrilled and on edge while reading the re-accounting of climbers who made the summit and barely made it out alive.
Also, back in 2015 I saw the biographical movie called Everest and as if life couldn’t be more funny, it centers on the same expedition that this memoir is about!
Only told by a different climber.
Coming back to The Climb, I was amazed, stunned, scared, awed and left feeling eerie about a man’s motivation to leave a mark on earth even at the cost of one’s life.
The book begins with the retelling of what happened during the 1996 expedition on Mt.Everest by a Russian-Kazakhstani mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev who was hired by Mountain Madness founder Scott Fischer, to assist in summit.
“Mountains are not Stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.”
That year, 3 commercial groups were planning on assaulting the 8,848m high mountain, but prior to the climb the author describes the logistics that go into planning such an adventure.
He goes into details about the equipment, gear, permits, cost and even training that is required to adjust the body at such high altitudes.
“The longer I live, the more certain I am that there are no accidents in life. There are no chance meetings; everything happens according to a plan, regularly and in order.”
Throughout the book, different opinions from the clients and the guides are given as to what could have been done differently that could have avoided the deaths. As well as the personal opinions regarding the actions Anatoli made throughout the journey.
On the day of the summit when the climbers were stuck on the mountain due to the snow, no daylight and strong wind, Anatoli made the selfless decision of saving those he could.
After descending from the mountain and without taking a break or resting, he was able to save the lives of 3 climbers who were literally frozen and on their last reserve of oxygen.
“The struggle is not with the enemy, or a competitor like in sports, but with yourself, with the feelings of weakness & inadequacy. That struggle appeals to me. It is why I became a mountaineer.”
But despite his heroic efforts he wasn’t able to save his friend Scott and a Japanese Climber.
That guilt has stayed with him forever, and after the climb was over the media wasn’t too kind with him either.
This book is sort of his answer and explanation to the allegations that were put against a man who felt at home in the mountains and was doing what he was instructed to do.
In the end, Anatoli met his end in the mountains that he loved in 1997 during an avalanche and was awarded the David A. Sowles Memorial Award that recognizes people who:
“…who have distinguished themselves, with unselfish devotion at personal risk or sacrifice of a major objective, in going to the assistance of fellow climbers imperiled in the mountains. It is dedicated to the memory of David A. Sowles.”
A few pages in I realized that the movie Everest was about this same expedition and I remembered how much I was affected by that film. It truly made me see the Nepalese sherpas and the motivation of a mountaineer in a different light.
Also, it made realize that despite man’s ambition to explore and leave a mark on every single inch of this earth, we’re just a speck in the universe.
And the earth is way mightier!
This book is about more than just human strength and will power, it is about intelligence, selflessness, and acknowledging the greatness of this earth.
It is also about trusting your gut, heroism, and forming a community.
While being there for people you call friends and those who become friends in the name of humanity.
I believe anyone who loves the mountains or feels at peace in their presence will love this but also feel bitter sweet. As despite the wholesome feeling one may get by gazing at those lonesome beautiful peaks, they carry immense power and have a mind of their own.
Onto the basics:
- Rating: 5.0/5.0
- Favorite quote: “Mountains have the power to call us into their realms and there, left forever, are our friends whose great souls were longing for the heights.”
- Reader level: Fairly easy. A lot of mountaineering terminology that some Googling will completely resolve.
- Should you read: Yes, I highly recommend it
- Would I read it again: I will! And watch the movie again.
Till next time,