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Boardman Tasker Omnibus, The
Savage Arena, the Shining Mountain, Sacred Summits, Everest the Cruel Way
||Boardman Tasker Omnibus, The
|| (5.00 of 5)
|Savage Arena (1982)
60-second summary: There was something about Joe Tasker’s character which was compelling, a charisma born from his single-minded quest for alpine-style glory and enhanced by his enigmatic past as an ex-Jesuit seminarian. He came across as a bit of a surly outsider, the clear blue stare and stubble of the many expedition photos making him resemble a Himalayan Pale Rider. His semi-autobiographical book, Savage Arena, which was published just as he disappeared on Everest’s NE Ridge, is compelling for several reasons, not least of which is the gripping story of derring-do on high mountains and near escapes from sticky ends. Tasker’s account of his and Dick Renshaw’s truly epic drive across Europe, the Middle east and half of Asia in a battered Escort Van to engage in an epic climb of an exceptionally technical Himalyan peak, for instance, ranks as one of the great climbing adventures. However, there is also an intensity and clarity to the writing which is rarely found in the genre of ‘climbing literature’, and the little autobiographical snippets which Tasker lets slip are revealing. This is a book written by a man who was both driven and disciplined - and it shows. It is a bullshit-free zone.
Characteristic excerpt: ‘I was weakening fast. My calves ached unendurably. I cut a small step out of the ice with my axe and stood on it while I hammered in an ice peg. I passed the rope attached to my waist through a snap-link in the peg and moved on with a little more reassurance. The dreamlike state persisted. Dick became a vague silhouette eighty feet away through the mist and driving snow. I kept making the motions of driving in axe, hammer and crampon points, moving imperceptibly further, but my adhesion was only tenuous. Wearily and inevitably, but with surprise, I fell, banging down the ice to be stopped twenty feet below the ice peg, dangling from the end of the rope. I had stopped, and I had no thought for the danger of the situation. Four thousand feet of mountain stretched away beneath me, and one six-inch spike of metal had held in the ice, taking my weight on the rope which I had attached to it. My brain filtered out all but the essential.’
Like this? Try these… Everest the Cruel Way, Joe Tasker. The Shining Mountain, Sacred Summits, Pete Boardman. Deep Play, Paul Pritchard. This Game of Ghosts, Joe Simpson.
Sacred Summits (1982)
The Essential Gist: Pete Boardman’s sequel to Shining Mountain takes up the story after his triumph on Changabang. Life is never the same again as Boardman gets hooked on a never-ending series of expeditions to Big Mountains.
60-second summary: Sacred Summits is essentially Boardman’s expedition autobiography, and has come to be regarded as almost the companion volume to Tasker’s own Savage Arena. It’s easy to see why; in an ironic parallel to the latter, Sacred Summits was likewise published shortly after his death with his climbing partner. In death, as in life, it seems, the fate of these two climbers was fated forever to be intertwined. Boardman was a contrasting, more sensitive character to the sometimes-abrasive Tasker, albeit equally focused, and this is reflected in his writing which is less intense and allows a degree of vulnerability to show. Summits, by its very nature, being spread over a multitude of expeditions, is much more discursive than Shining Mountain, and lacks the narrative tautness which makes the latter such a compelling page-turner. A degree of almost academic earnestness creeps in at times, suggesting sections of the text were slightly rushed - the packed life Boardman led during the years it describes (becoming President of the Association of British Mountain Guides, Guiding at the International School of Mountaineering at Leysin, lecturing, writing other articles, going on all the expeditions) must have put tremendous pressure on attempts to maintain a writing discipline. Nevertheless, it is still a very fine climbing book by any standards, and all the hallmarks of Boardman’s fine style are present: the eloquence, the erudition, the masterful descriptive prose and the thoughtful analyses of motivation and behaviour.
Characteristic excerpt: ‘Kanchenjunga had left me exhausted and sated at the same time. I was drained of the physical and mental energy for any more prolonged effort and was worried that by going to Gauri Sankar I might be pushing things too far. It was the first time I had committed myself to a double-Himalayan-season-year. Yet I felt I could not back out, and trusted that feeling. I had three months’ grace for rejuvenation, and appreciated the summer with the intensity of a soldier home on leave.’
Like this? Try these...This Game of Ghosts, Joe Simpson. Savage Arena, Joe Tasker. Doug Scott, Himalayan Climber, Doug Scott.
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