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Everest the Old Way: A Bright Remembering Paperback – 1 Oct 2016
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1979: 4 men+1 woman, young trainee teachers, journey from Barnsley to Mount Everest by road to Kathmandu then by foot to Everest Base Camp, at that time an unusual and difficult expedition. The book relates the trek through their diaries and letters home. Contrasted by a return visit in 2010. New edn with minor revisions.
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Their diary extracts which include real life accounts of the 1967 trek - how different and more difficult were the travelling conditions then compared to today. Further reflections upon their first trip were made possible when two of the adventurers return to Kathmandu in 2010. The authors have digitised their ageing colour transparencies and included many colour photographs in the book. With the use of some clever digital technology the reader is able to compare some of the landscapes in of 1967 with the same views as they were in 2010.
The diary extracts of the expedition make for exciting reading particularly as they advanced to Base Camp. It is enthralling to read, particularly Dave Peckett's account of reaching Base Camp. At the age of 11, this Barnsley boy was admitted to Pinderfield's hospital in Wakefield with TB in the hip. He spent 3 years in plaster from the waist downwards and one leg became shorter than the other. With remarkable determination David faced his physical disability, became a qualified teacher and made it to Base Camp on Mount Everest. His reflections on this achievement are very moving. This book should be read by anyone who has a spirit of adventure and a love of walking in hills or mountains.
Quite apart from the story, I am full of admiration for the achievement itself, especially that of David Peckett. He says he felt that he had overcome the lasting disability resulting from his serious childhood illness. A massive understatement, I would say. Nowadays we hear a lot about people with some kind of physical handicap scaling unimaginable heights, usually - and understandably - with a fair amount of technical assistance or fail-safe back-up. But what is so impressive in Peckett's case is that he had none of this: he just did it, on exactly the same terms as the others. It must indeed have given him a tremendous kick to find himself not just at the foot of Everest, but in better nick there than the rest of the party.
These young travellers were indeed privileged to see the Everest region before it became a touristic 'tick-off', and their awareness of the privilege shines through the book.
Moira recommends the book as "a great read ... no ordinary trekking book". I think that the key element is that the expedition (four men and one woman, all student teachers at Sheffield University) took place in 1967, when few people attempted such an adventure. Access to the Himalayas was physically and politically difficult, there were no cheap flights, and only primitive trails from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp at Kala Pattar. The authors' return in 2010 shows how much has changed.
The book is compiled from original diaries, letters, pictures and memories revitalised by a the return visit. I was drawn to the book by the fact Sir Chris Bonington wrote the foreword. Their adventure into the unknown required all the resourcefulness and blind courage that is abundant only in our youth. That was especially the case for one of party, David, who was disabled by childhood TB and who dragged his `wretched leg' all the way, seeking no free rides or favours.
I wonder if this is more than it seems: could it also be the first ever account of amateur trekking to Mt Everest? Whatever - it's a great read.