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Everest - The First Ascent: The untold story of Griffith Pugh, the man who made it possible [Hardcover]

Harriet Tuckey
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 May 2013


On 29 May 1953, the summit of Mount Everest was finally reached. The achievement brought fame and honours to many involved - except the man who made the ascent possible.

Now, for the first time, drawing upon previously unseen diaries and letters, rare archive material and interviews, Everest - The First Ascent tells the remarkable story of Griffith Pugh, the forgotten team member whose scientific breakthroughs ensured the world's highest mountain could be climbed. A doctor and physiologist, Griffith Pugh revolutionised almost every aspect of British high-altitude mountaineering, transforming the climbers' attitude to oxygen, the clothes they wore, their equipment, fluid intake and acclimatisation.

Yet, far from receiving the acclaim he was due, he was met with suspicion and ridicule. His scientific contributions were, quite simply, at odds with old-fashioned notions of derring-do and the gentlemanly amateurism that dogged the sport.

This insightful biography shows Pugh to be troubled, abrasive, yet brilliant. Eight years in the writing, closely researched, and told with unflinching honesty by Pugh's daughter, Harriet Tuckey, Everest - The First Ascent is the compelling portrait of an unlikely hero.

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Everest - The First Ascent: The untold story of Griffith Pugh, the man who made it possible + The Conquest of Everest: Original Photographs from the Legendary First Ascent
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Rider; 1st edition (23 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846043484
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846043482
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Shines an entirely new light on the great expedition - a riveting read, full of surprises" (Sir Chris Bonington)

"The most important addition to the story of Everest." (Doug Scott)

"Marvellously enjoyable and exciting...a credit to [Tuckey's] industry and honesty." (The Times)

"Harriet Tuckey's gripping account finally establishes her father's role as the difference between triumph and failure, and the man himself as the real hero of the expedition." (Daily Mail)

"A vibrant, hard-hitting and very moving book, and a fascinating addition to the Everest story" (Spectator)

Book Description

The extraordinary untold story from the first ascent of Everest.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unsung Hero Of Everest 29 May 2013
By ACB (swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER
The conquest of Everest on 29th May, 1953, was celebrated on it's 40th anniversary at the Royal Geographical Society in the presence of the Queen. Members of the 1953 expedition were in attendance, including Dr Griffith Pugh, then 83, and his daughter Harriet, the book's author. She writes of her father, 'he had been a remote and irascible parent. I didn't get on with him, and I had never asked him about his work and knew little about it. I had always been vaguely aware that my mother felt he hadn't received fair credit for his achievements'. The praises of the leader Sir John Hunt, logistical support of George Band, organisational abilities of Charles Wylie and skill and determination of Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay were aired but no mention of Griffith Pugh. In Hunt's bestselling book 'The Ascent Of Everest' Pugh was barely mentioned. Hunt claimed credit for the elaborate preparations. How it must have been a shock at the anniversary when the expedition doctor, Michael Ward, spoke, singling out Griffith Pugh as the man who had been central and pivotal to the success of the 1953 expedition.

In 2003, the BBC broadcast 'The Race For Everest', Griffith's name nor his role in the expedition were mentioned. This was the trigger that stimulated Harriet to find more about her father, the man she knew so little about, who had largely ignored her, his other children and his wife. Meticulous research through archived material, interviews with surviving acquaintances of 'Griff' and the astonishing find of a suitcase full of his personal letters in the attic of their old house led to this publication. She had also spoken to the surviving members of the expedition including Hilary.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explosive Eye-opener 10 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Probably more books have been written about Mount Everest than any other mountain, but in spite of its title `Everest The First Ascent' is not another one - it is a biography of Griffith Pugh by his daughter Harriet Tuckey. The section on Everest's first ascent in 1953 is dealt with in 2 short chapters out of a total of 31. In addition to the text there are hundreds of `Notes on sources, explanations etc. taking up over 40 pages, a detailed ` Bibliography' of over a dozen pages, a few `Acknowledgements' and an excellent comprehensive `Index'. There is no doubting the thoroughness of research undertaken to produce this explosive eye-opener of a book, and readers will appreciate it as a worthy winner of the 2013 Boardman-Tasker Award for Mountain Literature.

Harriet Tuckey was only 6 years old in 1953 and knew very little about her father's involvement in the successful expedition, but at a 40th anniversary event attended by the Queen she heard Michael Ward confirm Griffith Pugh as a pioneer of high altitude and sports science, and praise him for his vital input via research studies and technological innovations. Ward's comments made a profound impression with reference to numerous subjects - oxygen requirements, fluid intakes, acclimatisation programmes, dehydration risks, dietary needs, and hygiene controls, along with designing tents, airbeds, stoves, clothing, boots etc. She read John Hunt's `The Ascent of Everest' and was mystified that Hunt did not reveal the extent of her father's role, and after watching a later BBC film `Race for Everest' which again ignored Griffin Pugh she determined to investigate and produce a more accurate record of his motivations and contributions.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Setting the record straight 29 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
You may think you care little for yet another Everest book, or books on climbing at all, or biographies, but you would be wrong. Harriet Tuckey's lucid, absorbing, truly magnificent book makes clear the achievements of her father, the physiologist Griffith Pugh, in establishing so much best practice in man's venturing outside of his evolutionary zone of comfort -- be this on mountain-top, ocean wave, outward-bound trek or athletics track. Pugh's wide open and endlessly enquiring mind was more than a match for the science, whose description here is by no means daunting, but against the hidebound notions of amateur superiority, the preconceptions, the usurping and the vanity he had to contend with he struggled, not helped by an independent mind-set which some had difficulty with.

The core of this story is of course Everest, 1953, convincingly portrayed as the watershed between the romantic and technical attitudes to climbing, represented by John Hunt and Griffith Pugh. Decades of gentlemanly amateur attempts on the mountain, unsullied by 'infra dig' notions of technical analysis regarding gear, diet, hygiene or the use of oxygen, failed to cover the final few hundred feet to the summit. But by the early 50s other nations than the British were posing a threat, and Britain's monopoly on the mountain, maintained via the 'gatekeeper' nations to its south and east, was collapsing or being circumvented via China. The '53 expedition could not afford to fail, and the old guard had to concede that a new, scientific approach was a necessary evil.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Mountains and Memories and the Fab Fifties
Don't write off the 50s as deadly dull. Actually there was a lot to celebrate and enjoy and I am not just talking about the ending of sweets' rationing but the great twin... Read more
Published 28 days ago by the macrae
5.0 out of 5 stars The lesser known Everest eccentric
Of course, the story of the first ascent of the highest mountain is well known internationally. However, most of us don't know much about those members of the team with a lower... Read more
Published 1 month ago by RMCT
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Very informative, superbly written and extremely revealing. I hope the climbing fraternity read this and acknowledge the brilliance of Griffith Pugh
Published 1 month ago by vicky miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Execllent, alternative account of Everest
I really enjoyed The First Ascent, a great story of a pioneer in high altitude physiology and also exercise science. Read more
Published 2 months ago by JG
4.0 out of 5 stars A different look at early altitude mountaineering
A little up and down at first & not at all what I expected. Comes into it's own once the Everest expedition is over, well written and a big eye opener to those early days of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Macca69
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
A unique view from a daughter's perspective of an exceptional man who was not such a wonderful father. This book rewrites the history of the first ascent of Everest.
Published 3 months ago by Clive Froggatt
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book
It was very interesting to learn the facts from a historical point of view but a shame he never properly received the recognition he deserved. A worthwhile read.
Published 4 months ago by 'Marble'
5.0 out of 5 stars The summit
The first book to really explain how Big Ed and Little Ten got to the top.
The official history is pretty clear, but needs to be read with a lot of double-thinking to get at... Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Milne
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book
A fascinating book - worth reading and I have given it to many people. Brilliant and it is very well written.
Published 4 months ago by Jammy Hoare
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
A fascinating study of two things: an unflinching portrait of a daughter father relationship and a homage to an obsessive scientist. Very funny... Read more
Published 5 months ago by H. Thompson
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