Even as a kid, I remember, I was always fascinated by mountains and the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest was obviously one of them. However, my fascination till most of my adult life was based on who climbed it that year and respect towards all those who did. It wasn’t until I found my passion towards trekking that I really wanted to know their climbing story. How they did it, the hardships, challenges they faced, their successes, their lessons, and everything else that could be known about the mountain itself. What better way to learn than by reading the account of the very first expedition of this majestic beauty back in 1924.
The book The Epic of Mount Everest, authored by Sir Francis Younghusband, who himself was the promoter and instigator of the first four assaults (as they called it) on the mountain, wrote this book on behalf of the Mount Everest Committee as a condensed volume of the three books previously written and published – Mount Everest: The Reconnaissance, 1921; The Assault on Mount Everest, 1922; and The Fight for Everest, 1924. I am sure these three books if read separately, will give a lot more detailed information about the mountain and about the very first attempt to reach the summit.
The book has an introduction by Patrick French, the award winning biographer of the author, who gives a brief account of the author and his passion towards the expeditions. The book starts at a slow pace and the first five chapters aren’t very exciting but the moment the reconnaissance starts, the book picks up the pace and the story gets exciting. So much, that after crossing chapter 10 (The Second Start), I couldn’t keep the book down or do any work until I finished it. The last ten chapters kept me completely hooked and engrossed.
From this book, one gets to understand the transport conditions of that time. How the logistics were planned, keeping such a long distance in mind. With practically no information available about the mountain or the conditions up there, they literally had to figure and carve out a way at every single attempt. Acclimitization or the use of oxygen was also contemplated and tried during these expeditions and a lot of crucial knowledge was gained about life on high altitudes.
Reading this book made me realize how easy it has now become to climb Mount Everest as compared to the time when there was no formal training to climb a mountain, no knowledge of the mountain’s geological structure, the conditions and reactions of high-altitude on a human’s body and much more. These expeditions not only inspired the future climbers and presented it as a challenge but also provided crucial knowledge that helped them in all the future expeditions. The lives of Mallory and Irvine just 800 feet below the summit was certainly not lost in vain. For who knows, they might have reached it but only the mountain knows it better.
I would certainly recommend this book for anyone who is a mountain or Mount Everest enthusiast in particular. In fact, it’s a good book for anyone who wishes to read some inspiring real life stories about endurance, perseverance, and overall motivation. In my view teenagers and young adults should for sure read this book as this can inspire and shape their approach towards life.