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The Climb up to Hell Paperback – 15 Oct 1998
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About the Author
Jack Olsen is a bestselling author who has written thirty books published in fifteen countries and eleven languages. He lives on an island in Washington's Puget Sound.
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The book then goes onto provide succinct, but some very interestingly presented, backgrounds of the key characters in this saga – skilfully familiarising the reader with them which all adds to what is about to follow.
The 10 or so days on the mountain are expertly detailed, providing the reader with as much detail as possible from what has been extracted from the various sources in a logical order. For those into mountain rescue techniques, there is a lot of very interesting and easy to follow discussion on the history and development of modern rescue techniques and their pioneers – many of whom played a key role in this rescue. Jack Olsen also ventures into the deep decisions between the local rescue guides
Finally this book ends with a twist that Jack Olsen very deliberately keeps to the very end, and which of course, I won’t spoil. Overall this is detailed, thorough, and certainly the most objective and intriguing of all the accounts out there covering this tragedy.
It is filled with facts and names from mountaineering history which will delight climbing enthusiasts. The famous Chamonix guide and one of the four climbers who figured prominently in the successful, yet tragic 1950 French conquest of Annapurna, Lionel Terray, figures prominently in the rescue portion of this narrative.
The account focuses on a somewhat inept, amateur mountaineer, Claudio Corti, from the Lecco region of Italy. Having lost a number of his roping partners to the grim reaper on prior ascents with him on various mountains, he naturally encountered some difficulty in finding one to accompany him on an expedition to climb the nearly vertical, north face of the Eiger. He finally inveigled Stefano Lhongi, a very inexperienced climber, to accompany him and attempt one of the most perilous ascents in the world.
This two man rope team was simply not prepared to make this ascent properly. Along their way up the north face of Eiger, they encounter two very experienced, German climbers also making the ascent of the Eiger's north face. What happens during their encounter, when disaster strikes, makes for some riveting reading.
While Claudio Corti comes across as a thoroughly despicable buffoon, one's heart cannot help but break for the hapless Stefano Longhi and the poignancy of his tragic end on the brink of rescue. The rescue itself is an amazing account of courage, bravado, and confusion, as a multitude of mountaineers converge upon Eiger in order to try and save the four mountaineers who had not returned.
While the rescue efforts account for the fate of the two Italians, the fate of the two German climbers was not ascertained until years later. This made for a mystery that for years caused members of the climbing community and journalists all over the world to heap opprobrium upon Corti, who proved himself to be simply an utter idiot. I leave if for readers of this book to discover for themselves what became of them.
The good thing about this book, as in the others is that, in the final analysis it is obvious who the good guys are.
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