31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2003
This is one of the best book I have ever read - in it G.W. DeWalt and Boukreev, one of the legendary climbers of his time, have combined to make this book a gripping, compelling read. It was immensely difficult to tear myself away from it. Having read Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, which gives Krakauer's version of events on that fatal day, this book contrasts heavily to Krakauer's style of writing, in as good a way as possible. G.W. DeWalt has put Boukreev's account forward so well, I am moved to feel for Boukreev - who pulled off one of the most astounding mountaineering rescues of all time without oxygen - because he is unjustly villified over his actions on that fatal day by the media. In reading this, I have been compelled to change my mind over certain things - showing how well his account has been put across.
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2004
If you are looking for a fair view of what happened on the mountain on that dreadful day 10th May 1996 then this is the book to read, but if you are after a book that takes you on a rollercoaster ride of those fateful hours then i'm afraid you will be very disappointed.
After reading this book I have an awful lot of admiration for Anatoli Bourkreev. The heroic effort he made to rescue as many eople off that mountain must never be forgotten.
The Climb is split into effectively 2 books. The first explains how Antoli was chosen for the expedition, the preparation that was involved and also the detail of what actually happened when the two teams of Rob Hall and Scott Fischer got tangled deep into the death zone.
The 2nd part of the book is spent justifying Anatoli's decisions, and defending the wild and mostly misdirected accusations directed at him by Jon Krakauer. This in it's self is very important, but unfortunately the same accusations are covered time and time again, but only from a different perspective. I found myself willing to get to the end of the book for this reason, which did slightly ruin the whole book for me.
Please make your own mind up, but be warned that the last half of the book can become a little tedious.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2003
When i bought this book i had no idea that it would keep my gripped for more than a 24 hours on a flight, reading without a pause but it did. Great book, well written (i am currently reading it for a second time). In addition it also provides a counter view to the contentious views that are expressed in 'into thin air'. A true story of human endurance, bravery, extreme conditions and business competition in a world where the price of failure is death. A truely human story about one of the great mountaineers of all time, who climbed without O2. Great read and everyone i know who has read it say the same, you just can't put it down until the story has been told in full.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Re-reading the accounts of Everest 1996, I'm getting ready for the new feature film that's due out in cinemas soon. Krakauer's book is the grand-daddy, with its easy writing and interesting approach, but from what I gather in this book and others, his vilification of the Russian guide, Boukreev, is an unfair assessment that has had many chances to be retracted in the light of more facts and research. I'm glad to have read this to not only balance out Krakauer's account, but give a lot more insight to the Mountain Madness expedition led by Scott Fisher.
Basically, deWalt has painstakingly interviewed Boukreev and used recordings of the debriefing by many of the survivors, taken just a few days after the disaster. There's never any finger-pointing per se, but there are clearly issues that all built up and built up to the terrible climax of summit day in May '96.
I really enjoyed getting the background of Fisher's expedition, how Boukreev was recruited and the various preparations they made in getting a commercial expedition off the ground. The acclimatisation procedure and personalities involved, the delays and difficulties with issues like setting up fixed ropes, establishing camps, and battling the weather, not to mention Fisher's frequent distraction by other issues like a Sherpa's illness, Sandy Pittman's radio equipment for her magazine assignment, and presumably, marketing for future expeditions, but I think the bottom line is this: the fierce storm became a great leveller to those who hadn't summited early. The other issues like oxygen levels and cautious/unhelpful sherpas wouldn't have been a problem if the leaders, Hall and Fisher, had set their turnaround time to 2 pm, and stuck with it.
That's so easy to say in hindsight.
The fact that Boukreev, having hunted for people throughout the night and the next day, was awarded the David A. Sowles Memorial Award given by the American Alpine Club for valor, firmly indicating that the mountaineering community thinks that Boukreev deserves acknowledgement for heroic effort, whatever Krakauer intimates to the contrary.
DeWalt's book is very readable and fascinating, and despite perhaps 100 pages of describing the dispute with Krakauer that gets a bit old after a while, there's little mystery left about what happened that day, what Boukreev did, and what a loss it was to mountaineering when he disappeared on Annapurna after an avalanche on Christmas Day, 1997.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The fact that there are 68 customer reviews of "The Climb" versus over two hundred of "Into thin air" probably says a lot about the opposite viewpoints provided in each book. Having read Krakauer's book first I can accept that for many it will easily be the better read, simply because he has written extensively on climbing in several books and numerous articles plus has a writing prose style that communicates well the drama of events plus English is his first language.
However as I said in my Amazon review of Krakauer's book,("Why commercialising of high altitude mountain guides is fatal!"), I felt that he had passed over too many of the key lessons and issues around the tragic events in March 1996. The detailed analysis and especially the second half of this book make clear this is a point by point rebuttal of the case put by Krakauer and for me it is a convincing analysis and response but not an easily read book.
In addition it is esssentially a two handed response as it reflects the comments and views of Bourkeev, an ambitious high altitude climber who after losing the unlimited state support of the USSR with its political collapse did mountain guide roles as a needed method of financing further climbs. English is clearly not his first language and co-author DeWalt's role is not just that of translator but also detective in piecing all the evidence in English that Bourkeev could not understand but also cross examining his statements and interviews to ensure it all fitted and matched up.
The book is thus primarily Bourkeev's thoughts and memories plus his philosophy on high altitude climbing rather than the wider landscape of the whole venture provided by Krakauer and when it comes to the climb has much more specificity on what happened in his team and the final tragic events. My reading of the book sadly leaves Krakauer's version of events being shown as lacking - given he was so out of the command chain as the final push to the summit occurred and especially in his own immediate descent afterwards where he was lucky to make it back to camp as the storm started to hit the two teams who summitted that day.
As with all such post tragedy analysis the matter inevitably comes down to one single key event which is Bourkeev's role in his team and the instructions and working practices being followed by him with his team leader, Scott Fisher, on the peak of Everest. With the agreement of Fisher, he would descend to camp to rest and come back later to help others descend which is the area that Krakauer argued as Bourkeev's failings even though he was not a full participant in them. The book probably is guilty of overkill on this area but sadly it seems Krakauer's actions post the tragedy in DeWalt's eyes (given Bourkeev died in an avalanche just as the book was finished) justify his taking the second half of the book to point by point respond to the later accusations and statements made, including the full and lengthy transcript of the post mortem debate taped at Everest Base Camp by many of the surviving participants in the few days after the tragedy.
What the book reaffirms is that being a guide to less experienced climbers at such high altitudes will never be easy and the ability to help them when bad health or weather hits may be very limited. Yet it is interesting to note that the chapter of Bourkeev leading an Indonesian army team to the summit of Everest the following year shows the disciplines that need to be followed to avoid further disasters happening. Recent magazine articles in 2013 about the Nepalese authorities intending to enforce more control after fights between different teams in the prior year in which 234 people reached Everest's summit in one single day (!) show the issue has not receded since the tragedy covered in this book.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 1999
In one sense this is a fascinating book, but for all the wrong reasons. For an armchair mountaineer/Everest-addict like me, it did provide new information about the 1996 disaster, adding some interesting details that were not included in "Into Thin Air." This new info is why I gave the book 2 stars instead of none. But G. Weston DeWalt is such a ham-handed writer, and he has such a big axe to grind, that the book probably doesn't really deserve even 2 stars. I couldn't figure out why the late great Anatoli Boukreev, who was one of the world's top mountain climbers, teamed up with such a mediocre talent as DeWalt for his ghostwriter. It's a pity that a real mountaineer and/or a skilled author (Greg Child, David Roberts, Jim Curran, or John Hart would have been perfect) wasn't chosen to write the book instead. It would have been a much more readable tale (and probably a lot more believable, too). As another reviewer commented in one of the entries posted below, Boukreev deserved a lot better than he got from this fellow DeWalt.
The main problem with "The Climb" is that Boukreev's heroic story is tainted by DeWalt's incessant sniping at John Krakauer, the author of "Into Thin Air." In a tone of voice that drips with smug indignation, DeWalt never passes up an opportunity to get in a nasty dig at Krakauer. DeWalt really lays it on thick, and his sanctimonious diatribes come across as cynical and phony. I was left with the impression that he must have been motivated by an intense personal hatred or resentment of Krakauer. DeWalt's bile seeps into too many pages of "The Climb," poisoning the entire book. His tiresome refrain is that Krakauer's mission in writing about Everest was to destroy Boukreev's reputation. Anybody who has read the recent illustrated edition of "Into Thin Air" (which has a long new chapter at the end where Krakauer very convincingly refutes DeWalt's charges and offers sympathetic insights into Boukreev's life) will realize that DeWalt's claims are so exaggerated that they seem downright nutty. The net effect is that DeWalt's credibility is badly undermined. After finishing this book, I wondered whether he and his publisher decided beforehand to write and market "The Climb" specifically as an attack on Krakauer, hoping to create as much controversy as possible, capitalize on the amazing popularity of "Into Thin Air," and get more attention for their own book. Heck, my paperback copy of "The Climb" even had a big red sticker on the front cover hyping it as a "response to John Krakauer from G. Weston DeWalt". It's almost like the publisher didn't have confidence that readers would buy DeWalt's book unless they slapped Krakauer's name prominently across the cover! Using Krakauer's name to sell books was perhaps a shrewd marketing decision, but the pandering, self-congratulatory, attack-dog tone of "The Climb" wasn't any favor to Boukreev, may he rest in peace.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Having read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, I read The Climb thinking that it would complete the picture and give me a balanced view of what happened on Everest in 1996, when storms hit a number of commercial expeditions resulting in the deaths of eight climbers. It did so to a degree, and the account by Boukreev of the climb and of his rescue of three members of his expedition is certainly gripping, but there were aspects of this book that spoiled it a little for me. The most interesting part of the book is the first part, which describes the expedition and Boukreev's heroic rescue of three of his fellow climbers. The Mountain Madness debriefing transcript at the end is almost as interesting, but in a different way. In between these is sandwiched a lot of argument about Jon Krakauer's account and his criticisms of Boukreev. I found this irritating, distracting, unnecessary and undignified. The Climb is tilting at windmills here. After all, Krakauer is not unreservedly critical of Boukreev. He describes Boukreev's rescue efforts and gives him credit for them. He does also question the wisdom and motives of some of Boukreev's actions, but I think this fair enough; he wrote his account very soon after the events, and admits to the incompleteness of his knowledge. He is also critical of the Everest 'industry' in general, and most of all of himself.
The Climb is not such an engaging read as Into Thin Air. Perhaps this is because Boukreev was not a writer himself and his command of English was poor, so he had to collaborate with someone who could write, but who was not an eyewitness to the events. Krakauer has the advantage of being both a participant, an eyewitness and a good writer, so his account, while his book may have gaps and inaccuracies, is much more compelling. It certainly gives one a greater feel for the atmosphere and the characters involved. If you want to read just one account of the events described in this book, then I would recommend Into Thin Air. You may then feel compelled to read The Climb for the sake of balance. This review seems rather more negative than I intended it to be, so let me finish on a positive note. The Climb tells a gripping story of true life drama, tragedy and heroism. You will want to know how it ends. Boukreev, although he describes himself as a 'difficult' person, comes across with great humanity, honesty and heroism.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 1998
This is not the best book written about the 1996 Everest disaster and it is certainly not the most exciting, but for those who have read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air this is the perfect compliment (some may say antidote). De Walt has set himself the task of defending Boukreev from some of the unjust criticisms made of him by Krakauer. He accomplishes this with style. For all that Krakauer is the better writer and storyteller he really knew too little about the Mountain Madness group to voice his strong criticisms and cast blame. De Walt gets us inside the mess tent when things are going wrong and when individual tensions start to cause cracks which grew into yawning and dangerous crevasses. De Walt too modestly claims only to be a co-author with Boukreev but this is a pretence. The maligned climber is really his subject (Boukreev claims much of the misunderstanding of his actions stemmed from his difficulties speaking English, and it is obvious later when Krakauer's article has to be read to him out loud that he could not read English very well either). But he cannot make up his mind how Boukreev is to speak. First he allows Boukreev apparently to write in the first-person and then, at what promises to be the most exciting and pacy narrative of the book (the rescue), he lapses into a sterile question and answer style transcription of one of his interview tapes. This is disappointing but doesn't spoil the book. He redeems himself by wonderfully understated encounters between the guides and clients which paint their personalities to perfection. De Walt has more time for the paying clients than Krakauer had in the opposing camp, but the antics of some of them make you squirm: from Lene Gammelgaard's insistence that she could summit without oxygen (she nearly died with it), to Sandy Hill-Pitman's row over using a satellite telephone and her unscheduled absence to socialise with friends in the valley shortly before her summit attempt. However when, at the end of the book, De Walt contrasts the 1996 commercial expedition with the discipline and organisation of an Indonesian Army expedition also guided by Boukreev you know he is sitting firmly in the mountaineer's camp and not Wealthy Joe Public's. This was, of course, a disaster waiting to happen. This hindsight is threaded through the narrative. Scott Fischer is cast as the heroically incompetent businessman. He was a poor organiser who apparently charged only one client the full price of $65,000 for the expedition. Unsurprisingly at one point he realises that his profit might be as low as $10,000 for the trip but he refrains from confronting his friend Gammelgaard who had not paid her $20,000 concessionary fee. Worse still, his refusal or logistical inability to delegate hard physical chores fatally weakened him. The irony is that he was a great mountaineer. Left to climb mountains with mountaineers he would probably still be alive. Many of his clients complained that they were not getting the service they expected, as though this was an exclusive safari. Fischer passed this complaint to Boukreev, alleging he was not doing his job properly because he was neglecting the clients. Boukreev could not understand it because he is a mountaineer. Fischer understood it far too well and the dilution of his talents killed him. Wealthy people will always have the money to indulge their dreams, whether they be realistic or not. They will continue to go to Everest and some more will die. That, so to speak, is a fact of life. That more did not die in May 1996 was entirely due to Boukreev. Whether Krakauer criticises him for going down the mountain in advance of his clients, three people were saved by him from certain death. De Walt succeeds in his defence of Boukreev in this largely well written and informative book. As De Walt points out: whilst Krakauer was collapsed in his tent Boukreev was in the ferocity of the storm saving life.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
This is the story of the 1996 Everest disaster which saw so many climbers perish on that mountain. It is told from the perspective of Anatoli Boukreev, who was one of the guides on the ill-fated Mountain Madness expedition to Everest. It is written almost as a rebuttal to the perceived criticism of Boukreev's actions on that ill fated climb, criticism that was voiced by author Jon Karakauer in "Into Thin Air", his definitive book about the 1996 Everest expeditions debacle.
This is a poorly written account which is oftentimes confusing. It has none of the clarity of prose found in Krakauer's "Into Thin Air". It is, however, an important chronicle from someone who was on Everest in 1996 and had a pivotal role in the tragic events that unfolded on the mountain. Boukreev provides an insider's view of the Mountain Madness expedition itself and of the preparations that go into such a journey. It is packed with many interesting details, which will delight Everest junkies.
Whether Boukreev's actions on the mountain were irresponsible in that he did not use supplementary oxygen to summit and immediately returned to camp after his successful summit bid, rather than remain with the expedition's clients, or whether he was just following the orders of the expedition leader, Scott Fischer, who himself was one of those who died on Everest in 1996, is an issue that will long be debated in mountaineering circles. There is no doubt, however, that Boukreev did, in fact, singlehandedly rescue three climbers during a raging blizzard; climbers who without his intervention would have died. Given the extreme weather conditions, his solo foray up the mountain to rescue climbers in nothing less than heroic.
Boukreev's is an important voice in the Everest annals, more so now that his voice has been silenced. On Christmas day, 1997, he died in an avalanche on Annapurna. RIP.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2003
Having read 'Into thin air' and other accounts of the doomed accent of Everest, this book is by far and away the most objective and humble portrait of tragic events. Other books might be more 'dramatic' and 'colourful' but I felt I understood what was envolved and expected in high altitude mountaineering and guiding after reading this. Boukreev was a great man with a genuine and clear passsion of the mountains. He has been cast as the villain in various articles about his conduct, but the reverse is true; he was a hero.