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The Shining Mountain by Peter Boardman

The Shining Mountain (1978)

by Peter Boardman

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Well written account of Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker's succesful 1976 climb of the west wall of Changabang, very much in lightweight alpine style. Boardmand and Tasker both died in 1982 on Everest's North East ridge - they're remembered each year with the awarding of the Boardman Tasker prize for mountain literature. ( )
  ianw | Sep 15, 2008 |
''It doesn't look like a married man's route,'' deadpanned a friend before the two young Englishmen flew to India on cheap airline tickets with a modest $:1,400 budget and six weeks' vacation time. How the climbers, keeping their party to two to make the dangers and decisions deliciously uncomplicated, struggled up one of the most formidable Himalayan faces provides a driving narrative that promises to become a mountaineering classic.
Boardman details the awesome risks, disappointments and ultimate triumph without exaggeration, yet an eloquence frequently illuminates his matter-of-fact prose. ''All my senses went tense and alert. There was a sharp crack that bit my ears like a gunshot. I stopped instantly, inert with fear, imagining that a whole sheet of ice was breaking off, with myself on it, and that I was within a split second of plunging hundreds of feet off the mountain. But nothing happened.''
added by Tassin | editNew York Times, Christopher Wren (Apr 1, 1984)
In climbing the west wall of Changabang in October 1976, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker brilliantly demonstrated what might be called the Shipton principle of expeditionary mountaineering: that a two-man lightweight, low-budget assault can rise to the kinds of challenges others would reserve for a massive attacking force.
A mark of Boardman’s integrity is that the tone in which he recounts the climb is sotto voce, without a vestige of the sort of grandiose self-appraisal indulged in (whether or not accurately) by writers like Messner and Bonington. In The Shining Mountain Boardman offers us a wealth of climbing specificity; but the most interesting dimension of the account, and the one the book is really built on, is the intense relationship between the two men. ... Boardman, thanks to the Everest Southwest Face Expedition, had recently become a media “star”. The tension between the two men hinges from the start around this disparity of fame. Boardman feels he must prove himself to Tasker, who, in irritable moments, exploits his resentment—as when Boardman accidentally kneels on Tasker’s photographic gear, eliciting this gibe: “I had to buy my cameras. They weren’t given to me, you know.”

Boardman is extremely honest in revealing his own worry that Tasker is nervier or tougher than he is. The competitive need not to confess fear or weakness seems, as much as anything, to have been the bond that drove the men upward. Tasker’s diary gives a limited insight into a sensitive, introspective soul; but the long habit of keeping things to himself (from thirteen to twenty-one he had trained to be a priest) makes the passages somewhat opaque. The two men, it is clear, did not reach a level of real intimacy, except in the inevitable climbing sense. Even there, Boardman is sharp enough to see, the strength of their union was based sometimes not on trust but on its opposite.
added by Tassin | editAmerican Alpine Journal Vol 22 No 1 Issue 53 1979, David Roberts
“The Shining Mountain is one man's book - refreshingly, after those Himalayan compendia from everybody’s diaries. Despite the huge role which Joe Tasker played in the ascent and the dialogue which comprises so much of the text, it is the author's story. Both climbing and writing seem to involve a strong reaction to the threat imposed by Boardman's status as public property after the ascent of Everest.
...it is a young man's book, modest in form but written somehow from a position of confidence and strength which belies surface humility. For all that it is healthy and honest, not least in its ever-ready admission that sooner or later a pin might pull or the last 8mm rope break.”

added by Tassin | editCrags Magazine, No. 16, Paul Nunn
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Joe Tasker had survived Dunagiri and had returned to life to the west of the Shining Mountain
As the distance of rock between myself and Joe increased, I began to enjoy myself. This was what I’d come for. I had come for the physical thrill of climbing, not for swinging around on perilously thin fixed ropes. For a hundred feet of climbing I felt confident and light and indestructible. I felt relaxed, rapturously free from a sense of effort, pain and danger, and in total control. Even the altitude almost ceased to complicate my breathing.
We couldn’t share our fears or achievements on this climb, we had to have a business relationship. If we opened up our relationship whilst on the climb, the mountain might exploit our weaknesses. We must present a united front against the mountain and swallow the subtleties of interaction. Self-preservation had to come first, even if this made us cruelly unsympathetic. Looking after my own life was evolving as a full-time occupation.
In the confines of the inside of the tent we were aware of every movement, action, thought even, of each other. There was no argument, no need for words, the mute passivity, clipped and curt responses, non-volunteering, ‘find out for yourself’ attitude, were sufficient indications to each other of our feelings.

For a full month, we had been alone together, working virtually every day, the whole burden of the expedition resting on both of us. We could not succeed alone, we needed each other.
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