Our favorite Mount Everest books and movies
Everest’s climbing season has been quite intense, with nearly 700 peaks, thanks to some of the best weather windows in years. Even for those of us who will never set foot in Nepal, the mountain, also known as Chomolungma in Tibetan and Sagarmatha in Nepali, is an alluring place, perhaps due to its ability to bring out both the best and the worst of human beings. spirit. There are stories that make you lose hope, like reading about climbers en route to the summit stepping over other climbers dying along the same route. And others that are incredibly inspiring, like last month’s news of the first all-black expedition to reach the summit.
We’ve put together a list of articles, books and films that dive into the gripping events that have taken place on the world’s highest peak over the years, from historic climbs to tense mountain politics and tragic disasters. We hope they will hold you over until next season.
The best articles and books on Everest:
“The Disposable Man: A Western Story of Sherpas on Everest”, by Grayson Schaffer (2013)
The summit dreams of the hundreds of paying clients who flock to Everest Base Camp each spring are usually supported by teams of Sherpas, a local ethnic group known for their altitude prowess. They guide climbers, commute for expeditions, set up landlines and work as cooks. There is a surplus of lucrative gigs for Sherpas to do on Everest, especially compared to what is available in the rest of the country, and a peak season can often sustain a family for most of the year. year. But it is a dangerous profession. In 2013, the former Outside Editor Grayson Schaffer explored working conditions on Everest, what happens when Sherpas die in the mountains, and where a death leaves a Sherpa’s family behind. “There is no other service industry in the world that so frequently kills and maims its workers for the benefit of paying customers,” he writes. “A Sherpa working above Everest Base Camp is nearly ten times more likely to die than a commercial fisherman – the occupation the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks as the most dangerous non-military job. in the United States – and more than three and a half times as likely to perish as an infantryman during the first four years of the Iraq war.History is necessary reading to understand what is happening behind the scenes to make the expeditions and the summits of Everest possible for so many people.
In the airby Jon Krakauer (1997)
In March 1996, Outside sent journalist and mountaineer Jon Krakauer to join a guided expedition up Everest. With his feet planted on the peak, Krakauer saw nothing that “suggested a killer storm was rolling in,” but that’s exactly what happened. Of the five people on his team who reached the summit that day, four died on the way down, caught in the blizzard at the top of the mountain. When Krakauer returned to base camp, he learned that five climbers from other expeditions had also perished. In the air recounts what happened that day, informed both by Krakauer’s first-hand account and by his investigative reporting. Over 20 years later, it’s still a fascinating read – any similar list without this classic book misses an integral part of the mountain’s history.
Touch my father’s soulby Jamling Tenzing Norgay (2001)
Author and mountaineer Jamling Tenzing Norgay is the son of legendary Tenzing Norgay, who first climbed Mount Everest in 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary. The elder Norgay told his son that he “climbed Everest so you didn’t have to”, but Jamling was still drawn to the summit. He made his first summit during the David Breashears expedition in 1996, which was transformed into Everest Imax movie (see below). That same season, the events of In the air took place, and Touch my father’s soul offers his own account of the tragic day. It also chronicles the life of Jamling’s father and his relationship with Hillary, a man revered by many, and it takes a broader look at the mountain through the lens of a Sherpa, providing an important and different perspective than what we usually get from western dominated Everest. Literature.
The third poleby Mark Synnott (2021)
Professional mountaineer, guide and writer, Mark Synnott was drawn to Everest in the spring of 2019 to investigate the 1924 expedition of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, who were last seen about 800 feet from the summit while they were climbing the northeast ridge. Was it possible that they were the first to summit Everest? Mallory’s body was found in 1999, but Irvine’s was never found. And it was Irvine who carried a Kodak camera that could provide the evidence needed to answer that decades-old question. In The third polewe learn about the mountain as a whole and the 1924 expedition, while learning the story of Synnott’s own mission to reach the summit in search of Irvine and his camera.
The butterfly and the mountainby Ed Caesar (2020)
In 1934, Maurice Wilson, a British soldier, had a crazy idea: to fly an airplane from England to the slopes of Mount Everest, then climb the summit solo. The most incredible part of this big goal was that Wilson was neither a pilot nor a mountaineer, and no one had ever summited Everest at that time. New Yorker Writer Ed Caesar tells the story of Wilson’s journey and the endless obstacles he overcame: learning to fly, having his plane seized, sneaking into Tibet illegally and walking hundreds of miles to the start of the ascent. Caesar’s diligent research brings to life Wilson’s remarkable attempt to realize his big dream.
Risingby Sharon Wood (2019)
In 1986, Sharon Wood, a 29-year-old Canadian mountain guide, became the first North American woman to summit Everest via the rarely climbed West Ridge (a route yet to be repeated). In Rising, Wood talks about the rise itself and the fanfare that followed, as well as the resulting “accidental career” as a motivational speaker. She also recounts the mundane details and little moments of expedition life that we don’t often read about (and some not-so-mundane ones, like how her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend was her main competitor in the running for the title of first North American woman to stand at the top of Everest). Wood analyzes what it’s like to be a woman on a male-dominated team and wonders where her own motivation to climb mountains comes from. “Everest wanted this book to be about that,” Wood writes. “But the mountain simply serves as the stage and timeline for the real story.”
Dark Summitby Nick Heil (2009)
Ancient Outside editor Nick Heil immerses us in the 2006 Everest climbing season, which claimed 11 lives. It recounts and juxtaposes the fates of two mountaineers, David Sharp and Lincoln Hall, to tell the story. Sharp was making his third attempt to scale the mountain solo and became famous for a tragic reason: dozens of climbers passed him as he made his way to the summit as he lay dying. Heil wonders: could he have survived if someone had stopped to help him? Hall was also left at the top of the mountain, alone and dying, but unlike Sharp, he survived a night without supplemental oxygen and was rescued the next morning by another team en route to the summit. Heil weaves together the stories of the two men compellingly while investigating the factors that contributed to their deaths: the commercialization of climbing Everest and the ethics of expeditions to the world’s highest peaks.
The best Everest movies:
Sherpa was filmed on Everest in 2014, the year an avalanche killed 16 people in the Khumbu Icefall (most Sherpas). The crew captured the disaster as well as the ensuing conflict between Sherpas, foreign expeditions, and the Nepalese government over wages, compensation for victims’ families, and safety on the mountain. During the film, we meet Phurba Tashi, who has climbed Everest 21 times and in 2014 aimed to climb it twice in one season to set a new record. If you are going to watch Sherpadon’t forget to also read “Everest’s darkest year”, another Outside feature film by Grayson Schaffer, about the accident and what happened in the aftermath of this tragedy.
Everest: Imax (1998)
David Breashears was on Everest in 1996 with Jamling Tenzing Norgay and, like Krakauer, captured the moments when tragedy struck. Everest is a 45 minute documentary that offers stunning images from the summit (including a 360 degree view from the summit). The film, narrated by actor Liam Neeson, gives audiences insight into what it takes to climb the world’s tallest peak, from training and preparation to the physical and mental challenges of attempting the ascent. It also follows a team led by legendary climber Ed Viesturs through the blizzard that killed eight climbers and to their successful summit.
beyond the edge (2014)
This film chronicles the first confirmed ascent of Everest by Norgay and Hillary in 1953, which propelled them to glory and inspired generations of climbers to follow. In the midst of a modern Everest season, where a colorful circus of tents sprawls around the base of the mountain, it’s particularly interesting to step back to a time when no one had yet stood on top. Through photographs, archival footage and audio, as well as re-enactments, we get to know the two men and learn what it took to reach the summit of Everest for the first time.