Books by M.D. Clarke

Released: Jan. 15, 2000

"Picture two happy men walking up a glorious valley" deep in central Tibet, 20,000-footers rising here and there. Mountaineers Bonington and Clarke try for an unclimbed summit, but it is the road that delights more than the topmost point. Bonington has made his name by climbing the great Himalayan peaks, though these days he is happiest, like his climbing companion Clarke, glomming about the backcountry, going remote in high-elevation landscapes. Clarke's warm voice alternates with Bonington's clipped tones in chapters describing their journey to Tibet's Sepu Kangri, known to the locals as the White Snow God, a glorious and daunting mountain away in the back of beyond. A combination of hellacious weather and unstable conditions prevents the duo from reaching the summit, yet their high spirits buoy the story. Now in their 60s, both men stop to smell the wildflowers, enjoy the area's residents, and take delays in stride. Even Bonington, heretofore a bit of a taskmaster, trades military precision for serendipity, and displays a certain grim pleasure in the logistical snafus: "He told us that we had come at a very bad time—it always seemed a bad time." Clarke is more consistently relaxed and expansive, stopping to note that "we surprised two ruddy shelducks from a little moraine pool," commenting on the food——delicious dumplings stuffed with meat and onions and hunks of lamb roasted in the embers——or passing along the good news about the outhouse situation: "The stench was indescribable. I gagged and retched." Bonington and Clarke each write polished landscape pastels and successfully capture the jittery atmosphere in Lhasa, where they duel with the Chinese bureaucracy over permits. A mellower Bonington, now more enchanted with place than technique, is as compatible with Clarke in the dangerous terrain of writing as on an ice-armored cornice. (90 color photos) Read full book review >