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Four Against Everest by Woodrow Wilson Sayre

Four Against Everest

by Woodrow Wilson Sayre

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Woodrow Wilson Sayre, a grandson of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, served in the U.S. Airforce in WWII, worked as a professor of philosophy, and spent some time doing a bit of mountain climbing. This amazing book chronicles the most interesting of his mountaineering exploits, a four-man expedition to the north side of Mt. Everest. In 1962 only 12 attempts on the peak had been made, all of them large expeditions with an army of porters and most using bottled oxygen. The Sayre Expedition (one is almost tempted to instead call it a Lark) was the first to use lightweight alpine techniques on Everest, nor did his team use bottled oxygen.

Because they wanted to climb the North Col route, and Tibet had been under the control of China since 1950 and was closed to foreigners, they had to resort to subterfuge to approach the mountain. . They applied to the Nepalese government for a permit to climb Gyachung Kang, an unclimbed peak to the west of Everest. Their plan was to set up a base camp, send their Sherpas away for a month, and take off over the Nup La pass and up the East Rongbuk Glacier for 20 miles to the North Face of Everest. Using relay-carrying techniques, they got to Everest and onto the North Col. Though accidents and exhaustion stopped the team short of the summit, they got to over 25,000 ft. on the North Ridge. Their retreat was always a step away from disaster, as they were low on food, and two weeks behind schedule.

This book is a classic of mountaineering literature. All climbers should read it, and anyone interested in mountain climbing and trying to understand why people climb mountains should find it to be a fascinating read. Sayre had a very dry wit, and the book is full of funny comments. This one of the most entertaining books on mountaineering I have ever read. ( )
  phomchick | Aug 20, 2014 |
I wouldn't recommend this to my friends because I didn't find this book interesting or entertaining at all. 3Q2P The cover art is okay and I'd recommend this to high school students and adults. I chose to read this because I had to choose a non-fiction book to read for my class. LilyG
  edspicer | Jul 4, 2014 |
A very enjoyable, if antiquated, account of a nearly successful expedition to climb Everest all the way from Kathmandu, with a team of only four men.

Sayre sets out with the goal of describing the "internals" of mountain climbing - the emotions, the thought processes and so forth. Perhaps by the standards of the time, he succeeded, but by modern standards, he falls well short. The book is still very much a blow-by-blow account of the difficulties of climbing a mountain, lugging equipment around, making tactical decisions, and so forth.

Still, it's an enjoyable read, particularly with a patronising eye on his gushing over "modern lightweight gear", and his lamenting that there were no mountaineering challenges left in the Alps - mountaineers resorting to climbing the hardest routes of the hardest mountains, in winter, at night. ( )
  stevage | Nov 27, 2010 |
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