This is a truly thorough study of the psychology and instinct of mountain-climbers, something of a technical guide and the story of a nearly incredible attempt to scale Everest's North Face (which had been unsuccessfully attempted eight times). Professor Sayre, who teaches philosophy at Tufts College and is the grandson of President Wilson, made the assault with three companions. With a minimum of money and without official backing, they proved that light-weight expeditions were the most satisfactory way of approaching their task. And what an adventure it is! They decide to go without Sherpa guides and porters and without oxygen. Since they couldn't get permission from the Chinese Communist government of Tibet, they went without that also and had to make a secret dash through Tibet to reach the North Face. Reaching base camp at the foot of Everest was ""like walking up and down ladders from Boston to Albany."" The climb itself becomes excruciatingly difficult, only a few hundred feet a day at the heights. Finally, very near the summit and after several bad falls, they decide they haven't the supplies for the final week they need. The author has many interesting comments about the philosophy of climbing and a literary gift for description.