This is the story of a nearly incredible attempt to scale Everest's North Face, which had been previously attempted eight times without success. Since Prof. Sayre and his three companions couldn't get permission from the Chinese communists of Tibet, they had to make a secret dash through the country to reach the North Face. Getting to the base camp was ""like walking up and down ladders from Boston to Albany."" The climb itself became excruciatingly difficult, only a few hundred feet a day at the heights. Very near the summit and after several bad falls, they didn't have the supplies for the final week they needed to reach the top. They had set off on a light expedition without Sherpa guides or porters or oxygen and proved that an unburdened group made faster time. The author has many interesting comments about the mystique of climbing, as well as the psychology of climbers, and a literary gift for description.