Books

November 29, 1999

THE LOST EXPLORER
By Conrad Anker and David Roberts
Simon & Schuster, $22

George Leigh Mallory is the legendary British mountaineer who,
when asked why he insisted upon trying to climb Mount Everest,
replied immortally, "Because it is there." Sadly enough, Mallory
has been "there" for 75 years, the mystery of whether he made it
to the top forever unresolved. No one, in fact, knew exactly
where he was until this past May 1, when veteran climber Conrad
Anker, a member of an expedition searching for Mallory, came upon
his remarkably preserved corpse at 27,000 feet on Everest's North
Face.

The discovery attracted worldwide attention because, as Anker's
co-author, David Roberts, writes, "With the sole exception of
Amelia Earhart, no lost explorer in the twentieth century has
provoked a more intense outpouring of romantic speculation than
George Mallory." This book details the discovery and recounts
Mallory's career. Mallory, we learn, was a charming British
gentleman who, despite his courage and athleticism, was
distressingly absentminded (he forgot his flashlight on his
final ascent) and so inept mechanically that he never quite got
the hang of switching on his oxygen tank. Oh, yes, Anker doesn't
think Mallory made it to the summit.

GHOSTS OF EVEREST
By Jochen Hemmleb, Larry A. Johnson and Eric R. Simonson
The Mountaineers Books, $29.95

Here we have three narrators from the Mallory expedition, Jochen
Hemmleb, Larry A. Johnson and Eric R. Simonson, recounting the
discovery to Seattle author William E. Northdurft. Along with
vivid, even startling photographs of that adventure--including
grim pictures, in more or less living color, of Mallory's
alabaster corpse--there is a rather touching foreword by
Mallory's octogenarian daughter, Clare Millikan. There is a
history of previous attempts on the great mountain, as well as
speculation on what caused the deaths of Mallory and his
climbing partner, Andrew (Sandy) Irvine, whose body has yet to
be found.

This is a more expansive book than The Lost Explorer, but it
lacks the sense of immediacy reflected in Anker's discovery and
the depth of Roberts's portrayal of Mallory. Ghosts is also
somewhat more ambivalent about whether Mallory made it all the
way to the top of the world.

LAST CLIMB
By David Breashears and Audrey Salkeld
National Geographic Books, $35

This even more ambitious book, by mountaineer-filmmaker
Breashears and Everest historian Salkeld, is the definitive
account of all three British attempts on Everest involving
Mallory in the 1920s. Its pages, enhanced by maps, charts and
vintage photographs, some taken by Mallory himself, convey the
ordeals endured by Mallory, Irvine and their cohorts in tackling
a part of the planet so unexplored at the time that it might as
well have been (and is, in fact, closest to) the surface of the
moon. These authors conclude, after an imaginative re-creation
of the fatal events of June 8, 1924, that Mallory and Irvine
were turned back near the summit and fell to their deaths while
descending.

A LIFE ON THE EDGE
By Jim Whittaker
The Mountaineers Books, $26.95

Among seemingly scores of books on Everest, we have this one by
the first American to reach the summit. Whittaker made it to the
top on May 1, 1963, 10 years after Sir Edmund Hillary and
Tenzing Norgay. Actually, Whittaker spends little more than a
chapter on that mountain in this engaging memoir. Everest may
have made him famous, but he'd rather write about other climbs
he's made, most of them in his native Pacific Northwest. He's
refreshingly modest: He wanted his Sherpa to precede him to the
top of Everest. Remarking on his birth as a twin, he jokes that
he was "a unique individual for only the first ten minutes of my
life."

KNOCKDOWN
By Martin Dugard
Pocket Books, $24

Almost as big as Everest in publishing these days is the
disastrous 1998 Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race. In fact, the
"Syd-Hob" is known in Australia as "the Everest of ocean
racing"--with good cause because it is one of the most
challenging and dangerous of all outdoor adventures. A total of
115 yachts set sail from Sydney last December, and only 44
reached their destination 735 miles away in the Tasmanian
capital. Six sailors were killed, and 57 had to be rescued from
the sea as a "weather bomb" with winds up to 90 mph and waves as
high as 70 feet clobbered the boats in the navigational "black
hole" of Bass Strait. Of the armada of books recounting that
terrible time, Dugard's is much the most compelling.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)