In May 1996, Lene Gammelgaard became the first Scandinavian woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest. The next day she made history again by surviving the mountain's deadliest disaster. The catastrophic blizzard that killed eight climbers, including Gammelgaard's friend and expedition leader Scott Fischer, spurred controversy over the commercialization of Everest, and has been exhaustively chronicled in accounts such as Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air
Fortunately, Climbing High offers an original, insightful view of the tragedy and steers clear of the need to explain what went wrong: "You cannot expect anyone to help you ... up there. Your fate is in your own hands, your own two feet." Gammelgaard kept journals throughout the expedition, and her account stays true to this form: short, intense, and subjective entries on the pressures of financing the climb, the fierce physical and psychological challenges women face in extreme sports, and the tricky cluster of personalities that can make or break a summit bid. Yes, there are gripping moments, such as the desperate night she and seven others spent exposed in the storm above 20,000 feet, but Gammelgaard is at her best when providing insights into what drives people to risk--and sometimes lose--their lives. --Svenja Soldovieri
From Publishers Weekly
Months before John Krakauer's Into Thin Air conquered bestseller lists, Gammelgaard, a member of the 1996 Mountain Madness Mt. Everest expedition, wrote an account of the catastrophe that became a bestseller in Denmark and is at last available in English. Those who have followed the controversy surrounding the tragedy will welcome this even-handed version. A lawyer and psychotherapist, Gammelgaard intended to become the first Scandinavian woman to climb Everest. Her physical and mental training for a grueling ascent without oxygen (a publicity stunt that was later aborted) may have saved her life: she climbed quickly and reached the summit early. During the team's descent in the deadly snowstorm, she was also able to trade her full canister of oxygen for a weaker teammate's nearly empty one. Gammelgaard offers keen insights into the motivations and characters of the lead climbers and guides, and frankly discusses the "megalomania" that drove her to risk her life. Dismissing accusations that hers was a glamour expedition for wealthy amateurs, she emphasizes that her co-climbers were accomplished mountaineers and that the high price of admission paid for the best quality food, equipment and support team. Still, she has powerful regrets about the loss of life, confessing, "I just didn't know how high a price the Mother Goddess of the World would exact to show us humans the consequences of hubris." Photos. 7-city author tour. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.