Book review · Non-fiction

Book review: ‘The ascent of Everest’ by John Hunt

‘The ascent of Everest’ is a first-hand account of the 1953 expedition to Mount Everest, when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first men to set foot on the highest point on Earth.

Written in engaging style by the expedition’s leader, I found it difficult to put down (despite it being rather a heavy hardback for bedtime reading), and enjoyed it immensely.

the ascent of everest
‘The ascent of Everest’ by John Hunt (1953)

This weighty tome, which explains how the mountaineering project came about and how two remarkable climbers eventually reached the summit on 29 May 1953, was completed in just four months following the successful expedition.

The author, John Hunt, was a Colonel in the British army when he was chosen by the Joint Himalayan Committee to lead and organise the trek, and by all accounts he was an excellent choice. His warmth, humour, and appreciation of his fellow men comes across clearly in his writing, alongside his exceptional mountaineering knowledge and outstanding organisational abilities.

Although there were technical aspects of the story I didn’t fully comprehend, the sense of adventure carried me along from beginning to end. I think I especially appreciated reading it while tucked up and cosy in bed, imagining those brave chaps shivering in wind- and snow-battered tents on a hazardous mountainside. Incidentally, the chapter dealing with the final ascent was written by Edmund Hillary, one of only two men who could have written it from personal experience.

I’ve read a couple of other books about Everest, but this was one I had wanted to read for a long time and I was delighted when I found it in a second-hand bookshop recently. I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in tales of adventure and exploration.

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8 thoughts on “Book review: ‘The ascent of Everest’ by John Hunt

    1. That was what made me want to read it, and I wasn’t expecting it to be so readable. I must admit, I was half expecting a dry and possibly rather academic tome, but it was a real page turner.

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  1. That’s a nice find, Lorna! I love John Hunt’s style as well, and I think he was one of few men who were capable of leading such a huge and highly organised expedition. Hillary and Tenzing are (rightly) remembered for their remarkable achievement, but Hunt held the whole thing together. The logistics must have been truly daunting.

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  2. Sounds like a great read, and what a wonderful, vicarious adventure to have while being warm and cosy in bed! I will look for it.

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    1. Yes, indeed. Sometimes they couldn’t sleep at all in their tents, it was so cold and inhospitable. It made me feel very grateful for my creature comforts.

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  3. This is a timely post for me to read as just last week I watched Part I of ‘Hillary’, a mini-series on the life of Edmund Hilary. It was terrific and I’m looking forward to watching parts II and III.

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