Last weekend, after lunch out in Moulin (near Pitlochry in Perthshire), my parents and I enjoyed a drive along the road to Kirkmichael. Much of the surrounding countryside is moorland, with scattered rocky peaks and forests. The hillside rising up to the right hand side of the picture is the westerly edge of Ben Vrackie, Pitlochry’s local mountain attraction. This is the sort of scenery you might expect to see red grouse in, and I did indeed spot some lurking amongst the heather further along the road.
‘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.
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.