Nonfiction 2021 | 428pages
The picture in my mind is a mature tree, tall and strong, with many branches, limbs, twigs. That's what The Third Pole brings to mind. The trunk of the tree is the main story line … the search for the body of Sandy Irvine on Mt Everest, and for his Kodak camera. Brits Sandy Irvine and Gregory Mallory have held the distinction of being the first to summit Mt Everest, in 1924. Except, we don’t know for certain. They died on the mountain. Did they die on their way back down after summiting, or did they die on their way up? This is the story of the author and a group of supporters who embark on a journey to find the answer. And it is a fascinating journey!
So, back to the tree. The main line of the story could have been told in about half as many pages. But Synnott adds an enormous amount of context — about many of the deaths on Everest; about the politics of the Chinese who claim to have been the first and are very protective of information and access; about the evolution of mountaineering clothing; about the many nationalities represented among the ranks of porters, climbing sherpas, cooks, guides and other support roles; the history of Everest climbs; the weather, etc. etc. He dives into these contexts artfully. I find the branches and twigs to be quite informative, though I occasionally longed for a return to the main story, with just a bit more focus.
One of the components of the search for Irvine that I particularly enjoyed was the team’s use of drones, for the first time at such an altitude, to gather footage for a National Geographic special. There were political challenges to overcome, as well as interesting technical hurdles. I have not yet watched Lost on Everest.
Yes, I recommend this long but engaging read. Thank you Mary (?) for this suggestion.
July 2021, read while camping on the Oregon coast