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View from the Summit
The life story of Sir Edmund Hillary. Autobiography
||View from the Summit
||Sir Edmund Hillary
||Transworld Publishers Ltd
||Paperback June 2000
|| (2.50 of 5)
|"View From The Summit" is Sir Edmund Hillary's autobiography. A story of his extraordinary life penned in his own personal style. Hillary, well known among climbers as the first to set foot on the summit Mt Everest (1953 with Tensing Norgay), regales us with a lifetime of travels and anecdotes of which Everest is but a small chapter or two. We get the walk through, right from childhood to present day, including all the more daring adventures along the way, like tractoring across the Antarctic and jet boating up the Ganges as well as conquering many other peaks.
Perhaps more importantly though the reader is shown Hillary the man. Starting out as a simple bee keeper, navigating for the New Zealand Air Force, building schools in the Himalayas, getting married and becoming a father, and so on. With lots of little yarns thrown in. You sort of imagine yourself sitting at base camp somewhere on a rest day and Hillary saying, “Hey did I ever tell you about the time we got lost high on…”, and he launches into a tale of daring and adventure. Combine a hundred of these little sagas mixed in with the bigger accounts that he’s well known for, and that’s "View From The Summit".
The writing style perhaps lacks a little finesse and some sections do tend to get a tad bogged down in details, while other more interesting highlights are skimmed. It’s not written in a dramatic, plot twisting, character intensive, focused kind of way like a popular novel might be, so it may not appeal to all. It’s more just a bunch of good trip reports and fireside tales stringed together. If you’re a fan of Hillary you’ll appreciate the book by this legendary climber and probably be rather entertained by his “old school” humour and inspired by the amazing feats he and his companions accomplished.
|View from the Summit (1999)
Sir Edmund Hillary
The Essential Gist: First man to bag Everest writes a sports autobiography. Man of Action Hillary describes his energetic life with brisk, no-nonsense style. Lots of forthright opinions, mostly advertising how right Hillary is most of the time, and how wrong everyone else was.
60-second summary: It was perhaps inevitable that the first person to clamber atop the planet’s biggest mountain would turn out to be a larger than life character himself- and with an ego to match. Ed Hillary, the bold, brash, bombastic beekeeper from New Zealand has had a more eventful career than most, outlined in this, his autobiographical survey of 80 action-packed years. The superb black-and-white portrait on the dust jacket encapsulates this perfectly. It projects the popular image of Hillary as hero; all tousled hair, square jaw and quizzically confident expression, every inch the 50s Hollywood vision of the tough, decisive adventurer. But why an autobiography now? Hillary has published numerous accounts of his activities over the years- more than enough to sate the most obsessive fan. The fact that his book appears in the immediate aftermath of a sustained bout of media-driven Everest mania is unlikely to be coincidental. As if to emphasise this, the book opens immediately with the climactic events surrounding his moment of triumph on Everest with Tensing Norgay, rather than following the conventional chronology of autobiography - the publishers have clearly had their eye on the main chance. But there is more to Hillary than the roughneck stereotype forced on him by an unusual combination of interests in apiary and alpinism. View from the Summit, despite its title, is as much about adventures in horizontal planes, as in steeply inclined ones. Indeed, after Everest, Hillary ironically suffered from ever more severe bouts of Acute Mountain Sickness, ensuring that his energies were increasingly channelled into lower altitude pursuits such as Antarctic exploration, river rafting and after-dinner speaking. Nevertheless, Hillary’s recollection of Greater Ranges mountaineering before the advent of front-pointing and gross commercialism make fascinating reading, the end of the lost age of step-cutting and trekkerless foothills where it was still possible to tread where no Europeans has passed before.
Sir Edmund’s infamous antipodean directness is well to the fore in the writing, exemplified by his description of the triumphant moment of conquest on Everest, ‘Having just paid our respects to the highest mountain in the world, I then had no choice but to urinate on it’. Neither age, a political career, nor the experienced handling of canny literary ‘minder’ Maggie Body has managed to induce much diplomatic recollection of events. Brits often come across looking stuck-up and incompetent – which they may well have been. The fact that Hillary managed to drive a converted farm tractor all the way to the South Pole, while the British leader of the Trans-Antarctic expedition (the unfortunately named Bunny Fuchs), apparently struggled to put his underpants on the right way round let alone drive his super-dooper high-tec Sno-Cat in a straight line, certainly seems to lend support to his view. In Hillary’s book the real heroes are Sherpas (to whom Hillary has devoted a lifetime of help with aid programmes), New Zealanders - and Eric Shipton (although even he comes in for some stick, “Eric started cutting steps…I noted he wasn’t particularly professional at the job”). He seems to like Americans as well, hardly surprising in view of the fact the Sears Roebuck Corporation seems to have kept him bankrolled for much of his post-Everest career. Entertaining though Sir Ed’s opinions of his various expedition colleagues are, however, they can come dangerously close to sounding like Kiwi chippiness. His constant references to his own considerable physical and organisational achievements could be regarded as conceit by some, although others might find his brash assessments of his achievements - and others’ failings - represent a refreshing honesty.
Characteristic excerpt: ‘We had been warned by expedition doctor Griffith Pugh that dehydration was one of the greatest risks faced by climbers going high. To compensate for this, Tenzing and I had spent a good part of the previous night quaffing copious quantities of hot lemon drink and, as a consequence, we arrived on top with full bladders. Having just paid our respects to the highest mountain in the world. I then had no choice but to urinate on it.’
Like this? Try these... Life is meeting, Lord John Hunt. The Next Horizon, Christian Bonington.
|Hit it again, Mike. Rather dry and hard to read but persist.
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