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High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 5, 2008

170 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Kodas has written a disturbing account of stupidity and greed on the slopes of Mount Everest. On assignment for the Hartford Courant in 2004, Kodas joined an expedition led by a couple who had summited the mountain more than a dozen times between them. As he moved up Everest, Kodas watched his expedition disintegrate in a mess of recriminations, thefts, lies and violence. At the same time, a sociopathic guide was leading a 69-year-old doctor to his death on the unforgiving slopes. The twin disasters led Kodas to delve into the commercialization of Mount Everest, and to discover that such experiences were becoming a depressing norm. A thorough reporter, Kodas does an excellent job exposing the ways in which money and ego have corrupted the traditional cultures of both mountaineers and their Sherpa guides. He also brings a painful focus to the delusions, misunderstandings and indifference that allow climbers to literally step over the bodies of dying people on their way to the top. Oddly enough, Kodas writes less ably about himself, and the reasons for his own expedition's collapse remain unclear; the sequencing of story lines is confusing as well. Nevertheless, his narrative is as hard to turn away from as a slow-motion train wreck. (Feb.)
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Review

"High Crimes is both fascinating and terrifying. As someone who shies away from climbing stairs, let alone mountains, I was completely blown away by the high-stakes drama and intrigue of this Everest story. Kodas's vivid writing kept me up for two straight nights, and my heart is still racing! The story is tragic, yet somehow also uplifting--a true masterpiece!" -- Ben Mezrich, New York Times bestselling author of Bringing Down the House and Rigged

"Seeking to experience the high ambitions of an Everest climb himself, Michael Kodas found instead the little-known underworld of the world's tallest peak . . . compelling reading for anyone who thinks mountaineering is a noble pursuit." -- Greg Child, author of Over the Edge

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401302734
  • ASIN: B001PTG47I
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,613,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By James Patrick Moore on February 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It might be tempting to dismiss Michael Kodas as a guy with an Ice Ax to grind, but don't. High Crimes thoughtfully examines two main events; the tragedy that befalls Nils Antezana, as well as the nastiness that plays out during Kodas' own expedition to Everest.

In the story of Dr. Antezana, I suspect that Kodas is trying not only to set the record straight, but also seek some sort of justice (my opinion, of course) for another needless death on the mountain. One cannot remain unmoved given the events that unfold.

Be prepared to take some notes, since the timeline got confusing (as noted in a previous review).

As a climber, I tend to shy away from these kinds of books. Often, they are too self-serving to really be informative, but Kodas is trying to capture and come to grips with what went wrong and why. In this way, High Crimes is comparable to Krakauer's, Into Thin Air. Both Kodas and Krakauer elevate the 'climbing book' genre to something deeply more affecting, and I just couldn't put it down.
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Flight Risk (The Gypsy Moth) VINE VOICE on February 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading this book, it's clear the armchair adventurers who have always dreamed of Everest should perhaps concentrate on more pedestrian, less-life-threatening pursuits - say, helicopter skiing, or extreme whitewater rafting; even high-altitude hang-gliding. Mountain climbing would appear, in this day and age, to be fit only for canny professionals. Tyros need not apply, on pain, literally, of death.

I heard the author of this book, Michael Kodas, being interviewed on National Public Radio, a lightning rod for me in deciding on literary works; if NPR thinks it's worthy of note, then I usually will read whatever book is being discussed. It helped that the author seemed well-informed, at pains to be fair to all concerned, even restrained in his answers; it intrigued me all the more. I can't recall the last time I bought a book, hardbound, right at publication. This was a worthy read.

I will never understand what it is that drives people to WANT to crawl up the face of a mountain, literally hanging in space, aware that they are courting frostbite, storms, failure, and death, from the capricious mountain they yearn to conquer. As it turns out, the mountain - Everest - is almost the least of their worries.

Michael Kodas, a journalist for the Hartford Courant, and several other Connecticut people collaborate with a successful climber of Everest to make an attempt at the summit of the one mountain every mountaineer hungers to put on their resume. None of them, apparently, are rank amateurs; the nominal leaders of the party have achieved the summit several times already. But what they are all totally unaware of is the level of humanity to which the base camps has stooped in the past twenty years.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Tom Holzel on April 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Base Camp on the North (Tibetan) side of Mt. Everest is situated on the vast flat moraine at the end of the Rongbuk Glacier. In our 1986 expedition, the British SAS camp lay a quarter-mile away. A half-mile across the valley was a California team. And that was it. There was a certain purity to the endeavor. As twilight fell, all the ghosts of Everest seemed to swirl around in the desolate emptiness of this barren plain.

What a difference today. Author Michael Kodas describes a lawless wild-West atmosphere more akin to a gold rush mining town rife with aggressive thieves and prostitutes, delusional amateur "climbers" anxious to buy fame and glory at any price, and--the main subject of this excellent book--the subculture of criminally incompetent hustlers ready to sell it to them.

The author tries not completely successfully to weave several related tales into a single whole: his own attempts to climb the mountain; the abandonment by his guide and death of a 69-year climber. And the numerous hustlers selling dreams they cannot deliver.

The book centers on George Dijmarescu and Gustavo Lisi and the low-budget expedition services they (separately) ran by advertising themselves as Everest summiters, and the holders of various official French and Italian guide qualifications. None of these claims were true (although Dijarescue did eventually summit the mountain). Their low prices depended on using safety ropes put up by others, cheap, defective oxygen systems, and even sleeping in tents placed high on the mountain by other expeditions for their own use. Their concern for their clients in desperate trouble always seemed to be that of leaving them to their fate, or expecting the Sherpa porters from other expeditions to rescue them.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Lux on March 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
High Crimes tells two narratives: (1) journalist Michael Kodas's Everest summit journey and (2) a separate, concurrent summit bid in which an elderly climber was led to this death by a sociopathic, inexperienced, freeloading guide. Kodas combines these two experiences to make his case that Everest is a modern day cesspit of greed, crime, and man-made disaster waiting to happen at every turn.

Kodas makes many valid claims about the conditions on Everest. Sickness isn't always caused by nature - now fistfights and STDs are prime reasons for visits to the medical tent. Climbers are pushing themselves with performance enhancing drugs, or cutting costs and equipment to the minimum and assuming other climbers will bail them out in a pinch. Theft is rampant, and unscrupulous businessmen sell unfit oxygen tanks, putting climbers in peril when they gamble their life on their tank in a final summit bid.

In Kodas's own experience, he ran across teammates willing to steal or lie to get ahead as well as a cheapskate guide who shirked responsibility and sponged off others. The weakest parts of the book arise in Kodas's descriptions of his own adventure, however. He airs a laundry list of gripes about every trifle of a disagreement on the team. The team engaged in back-and-forth spats via their blogs, and Kodas was clearly hurt that "their side" got published first, or more believably, in his opinion. He uses his book to set the record straight on every single detail, bogging down an otherwise gripping multi-faceted adventure story.

High Crimes is worth it for the story of Dr. Nils Antazana alone. Antazana, a skilled but older climber, fell prey to a con man of a "guide" who abandoned the doctor for dead and used his money and equipment for a personal summit bid.
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