THE SHINING MOUNTAIN: Two Men on Changabang's West Wall by Peter with Joe Tasker Boardman
Kirkus Star

THE SHINING MOUNTAIN: Two Men on Changabang's West Wall

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When Boardman returned from the 1975 British Everest Southwest Face expedition a media star, he felt guilty about it: he'd made it to the summit (and by a very difficult route), but in part due to the logistical support of a large team, a successful experiment in ""vertically integrated crowd control."" He wanted a mountaineering challenge that would bring his sense of self-respect into line with the public recognition he'd received for Everest. In the almost sheer, mile-high West Wall of Changabang (22,500') in northern India, Boardman and climbing partner Joe Tasker found an awesome challenge, and Boardman's account of how they surmounted it ranks as one of the finest pieces of mountaineering literature in recent years. ""Expeditions"" do not get any more lightweight than this: Boardman and Tasker schlepped their supplies and equipment by train and bus through India in a comic and sometimes hair-raising journey (bus driver at a hairpin turn in the mountains: ""Relax, nobody ever gets out when the buses go over""), and finally came face to face with the ""glistening milk white shark's tooth"" of Changabang, and their chosen route, which an earlier British climber had dismissed as ""obviously so difficult it was laughable."" It took them a month: sometimes sleeping in hammocks, pinned to the wall, in piercing cold and 50-mile-an-hour winds; performing rock gymnastics at 20,000' that would have been very tough as sea-level boulder problems; and finally staggering to the summit amid wind-blown powder snow, in light ""like an overexposed photograph."" Boardman captures the feel of the experience--not merely the enormous technical difficulties, but also the psychological interplay, the odd mix of rivalry and support, that makes a climbing partnership. He found Tasker ""remote, complete. . . unaffected by human weakness. . . . Was he prepared to accept a greater level of risk than I?"" There was a subtle rivalry (""If he did not give up I would not""), but with unspoken mien: when Tasker is coughing blood, Boardman doesn't mention it; when Boardman knows he's incapable of using his freezing hands to fie his boots, Tasker does it for him. What was the point of it? Boardman's answer offers outsiders a major insight into what the classic because-it-is-there response really means: ""For two months it had given us something to believe in."" First class in all respects--a must for climbers, a good read for adventure-travel buffs generally--and rendered more poignant by Boardman and Tasker's deaths last year on Everest.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Dutton