Monday, December 30, 2013

The View from the Summit

The View from the Summit: The Remarkable Memoir from the First Person to Conquer Everest
© 1999 Sir Edmund Hillary
310 pages

The Himalayan Mountain range boasts the highest peaks on the surface of the globe; its heights equal the cruising altitude of a cruising jetliner. . In 1954, Sir Edmund Hillary and  Tenzing Norgay accomplished what many before had perished attempting: they reached the summit of Mount Everest.The View from the Summit tells the story of Hillary’s ascent up the mountain,  presented within a  partial biography of his life.  Beginning with its climactic triumph, that perilous day in 1954,  View then offers a look back, to Hillary’s childhood in New Zealand, where he began as a beekeeper. However humble that might sound, it was considered duty serious enough to warrant officials attempting to prevent Hillary from risking his life,  not that he let their concerns stop him from joining the air service. Hillary never shrunk from death; even after besting Everest, he went on to a series of similarly extreme adventures.  Merely climbing Everest wasn’t good enough, no; he had to climb several other peaks in the range, shoot the rapids of the Ganges,  trek across both the North and South Poles (once with Neil Armstrong) and give a speech upon being knighted. (His first thought after becoming a Peer of the Realm: “Oh, God, I’ll have to buy new overalls.”)  He was in short quite the character, pugilistic and stubborn; even the death of loved ones didn’t stop him from taking on challenges. His many accomplishments don’t include writing like a journalist; readers will find this tale of outdoors adventure tending toward the technical  the feats are more exciting than their telling.  His sober, factful approach has its own appeal, however.   Those interested primarily in the ascent of Everest should know that this is only a partial account of that challenge;  High Adventure  is Hillary's chief Everest memoir.

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