"Everest," writes British climber Bear Grylls, "is no place to prove yourself. The likelihood of reaching the summit is so slim that you're inevitably setting yourself up to be disappointed."
But, Grylls continues, mountains are most definitely an arena where alpinists express their deepest drives, and he had more ambition than most. Badly injured in a parachuting accident in 1996, he resigned his army commission and cast about for a new career--a decision he succeeded in putting off by enlisting in a climbing expedition to the world's tallest mountain. Now, Grylls points out, the odds of a well-conditioned climber's making the summit of Everest are something like one in a hundred; for climbers under the age of 30, who lack the experience and conditioning that age brings, those odds slim down to 1 in 1,000. Twenty-three at the time, Grylls took his chances nonetheless, despite the "sinking feeling that I had just made a commitment that was going to drag me a little too far out of my comfort zone."
He fulfilled his commitment, though surely not without discomfort, scared but determined, making his way up deadly obstacles such as the Lhotse Face Icewall and its deep crevasses. Other climbers were not so lucky, he writes in this you-are-there account of his time on the mountain, and death is a constant presence on these pages--which may deter readers who seek to follow in his footholds. For those content to travel up sheer rock and ice walls vicariously, though, Grylls's book is a spirited exercise in adventure writing and a promising debut. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
For a year, Grylls held the record for the Youngest Englishman on the Hill for his summit ascent at age 23 (only to be bested the following year by a 22-year-old). Grylls, while serving in the army, suffered a parachuting accident that nearly severed his spinal cord. After eight months in a military rehab center, he decided to leave the military and climb the legendary Everest. Barely escaping death (he fell into a crevasse at 19,000 feet), he reached the summit just 18 months after his accident. Unfortunately, Grylls's account of 70 days on Everest has a flat pitch, stiff syntax and little insight to offer on the experience of reaching for the top of the world save earnest observations on grit, body functions at high altitudes, his grandpa, faith, queen and country. The transcendent folly and physical drama of climbing above 26,000 feet were sharp narrative tools in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, but the Kid can't quite elaborate on how he felt as he passed the decayed, mummified body of Rob Hall, who tragically failed to scale the summit ridge. Grylls's report from the top of the world is almost without discernible color except the "bully" attitude Grylls and his mates brought along from England and took back home after a few celebratory ales in Kathmandu. His story adds little to the ever-expanding Everest genre. (May) Forecast: No matter how unexceptional they might appear to the uninitiated, diehard Everest fans never seem to tire of books like this. The effusive blurb from British Prime Minister Tony Blair certainly won't hurt sales, either.
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