From the My Favourite series – favourite stories on different themes by different authors, each volume edited by a celebrity in the field.
“After this, my first ascent, I had made up my mind to see the world, to see it from above, from the tops of mountains, whence I could get that wide and comprehensive view which is denied to those who observe things from their own plane.”
In The Making of a Mountaineer, George Finch recorded that resolution, made when he was a boy of thirteen standing on a hill-top in the Australian Bush. It was his book, and the news of the 1924 Everest expedition when Mallory and Irvine were lost near the summit, that made John Hunt decide to become a mountaineer himself. This collection of favourite mountaineering stories was chosen to illustrate the progress in climbing over the past hundred years, to illuminate the differing attractions which draw climbers on, and to recall some of his own experiences and friendships.
The stories range from the steady accuracy of Graham Brown climbing in the western Alps to the fluent charm of Eric Shipton exploring the Himalayas, from Victorian horseplay on the Matterhorn to a friendly expedition in the ‘red snows’ of the Caucasus. Hermann Buhl in the Tirol, Frank Smythe in Wales, Geoffrey Young dazed and frozen on the Taschorn: all are here, and so, of course, is Everest.
In 1953, just over a hundred years after Everest was established as the highest point on the Earth’s surface, John Hunt led the party that made the first successful assault on the mountain. Hillary’s account is here, and so are the verses Wilfrid Noyce wrote on that expedition, and Haston’s and Scott’s vivid description from 1975:
“We then walked up side by side the last few paces to the top, arriving there together. All the world lay before us.”