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Climbing the North Face Through the Killer Storm

by Matt Dickinson

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8129-3159-9
Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Everest again, May 1996 again, this time on the Tibetan side, in a tedious, self-obsessed account from filmmaker Dickinson. While Krakauer and company were toiling up the southern, Nepalese side of Everest three years back, Dickinson was part of a commercial climb on the North Face. He was there to film the third attempt of Brian Blessed, the English comedic actor, to reach the top. Dickinson was also there to do a little soul-searching, to make some hard decisions about his wanderlust, which was so difficult on his wife and family (though why he would choose that milieu, when one’s attention is best riveted to matters at hand, is a puzzle). Dickinson makes amply clear that he was unhappy, angry, or scared most of the time he spent of the mountain’s flank, and he shares his misery generously with his readers. There is none of the time compression and tight focus, none of the dread that pervades most fine writing on difficult climbs. Dickinson likes to whine: about the cold and the wind and the physical punishment; about the difficulties of going to the bathroom, let alone filming, at such an altitude; about the quality of the food and the impatience of the yak drivers and an obtuse Chinese bureaucracy. Dickinson acts as though he—d been dropped on the mountain against his will. And when the rogue storm that savaged the climbers on the other side hit, Dickinson was safely in camp. Then, getting his chance to make a summit push, he unilaterally decides to abandon his climbing partner, who has dropped out of sight, with a crass “summit fever had me body and soul.” He thumps his chest, the soul-searching long forgotten. If Dickinson’s spirit was as sour on the mountain as it is in this book, his partners would be forgiven for wondering which was the greater menace: the cruelty of the high-altitude world or Dickinson’s presence in it. (16 pages color photos, not seen) (Author tour)