The mountain is of course Everest, the way up the Southwest face of the third peak, and the challenge -- familiar scenario -- getting to the top. Bonington, who led the 1972 assault described here, infuses the adventure with all the man-vs.-the-elements drama and trivia that aficionados of the genre have come to expect, from that ""feeling of exultation in the very lonely emptiness of the world around me"" to that welcome mug of hot soup gulped down before the next move up. The team, small by contemporary expeditionary standards, didn't make it, missing by only a few hundred feet (""The wind -- always the wind. . .""), and Bonington tells you how and why crampon-by-piton. Only committed climbers will read along for the whole trip.