Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reading about Mt. Everest Climbs is a Timely Topic

In today's Houston Chronicle there is a writeup about an astronaut who tried to reach the summit of Mt. Everest but failed to complete the climb. Not long ago it was all over the news that the Olympic Torch made its way to the top of Everest. Meanwhile, I just finished listening to an audio book, High Crimes, about the shady side of Mt. Everest's ever-increasing magnetism. Then the other dayI was visiting with friend and lit prof Dr. Rosemary Chance about the book and she mentioned that it would go along great with Into Thin Air and Peak. I have not read either, but I am sure that Into Thin Air goes into the dark side of Everest. Sadly, the lower slopes are now crowded with crooks, prostitutes, drug dealers, and scammers as well as climbers. Some guides and guiding companies make the climb sound like a walk in the park, and more and more people are attempting the feat of summiting with less and less experience, preparation, and physical fitness. The result is, among other things, a mounting body count as people make mistakes and fall, get lost, or just physically overextend and lose their lives.

The author of High Crimes has an ax to grind. The group that he and some others pulled together to comprise a Connecticut state climbing expedition turned out to be an assortment of incompatible individuals, some with less than laudable intentions. In fact, by the end of their time together, he and some others came to fear for their lives at the hands of certain group members who did not like them. His story is very convincing, and I took time to track down some of the online presences of people he termed troublemakers. His descriptions were accurate at least about their Internet claims. Reading this book as an exercise in sorting out fact vs. opinion would be a great lesson for that and also for bias with high school students. Beyond that, just learning about what is happening at Everest would probably elicit surprise and concern from environmentally conscious readers. I know it changed my views about Everest and made me wonder about recent exploits, including the Chinese ascent which smacks of a political statement at least as much as an Olympic feat.

At the same time I feel regret for Astronaut Scott Parazynski who clearly made an unselfish decision to turn back, and at the same time a wise decision. Another astronaut, Karl Henize, lost his life on the mountain.

1 comment:

  1. If you want a book that is truly inspiring and uplifting--and that starts out with a mountain climbing story--then you need to read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. It relates his true life ordeals on the slopes of K2 and how he came to be rescued by a group of villagers on a remote Himalayan peak. After they nurse him back to health, he promises them he will help them in any way they need. Their request is that he build them a school. This would be the first of several dozen he would go on to construct as his mission to bring about peace in that inhospitable region..."one school at a time." Wonderful! I think it needs to be the One Book, One Conference selection for TLA next year! A great book for educators.