Greetings from The Raven!

Aug. 19, 2017

The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest by Anatoli Boukreev and G Weston DeWalt

The story of the man who risked everything to save lost climbers

May 10, 1996, was the day eight climbers died on Mount Everest. Four climbers from Rob Hall’s Adventure Consultants Expedition, including Rob; Scott Fisher, leader of the Mountain Madness Expedition; and three climbers from an Indo-Tibetan Border Police Expedition that were scaling Everest from the opposite side died of falls or exposure. A member of the Taiwanese Expedition had died the day before from a fall. Against all odds and left to for dead, Beck Weathers stumbled into camp under his own steam.

As Anatoli states, he is writing this book as a rebuttal to a perceived disparaging account of his actions in Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air. Anatoli explains his decision to climb without supplementary oxygen, the reasoning behind his decision to leave Yasuko Namba for dead and why since Beck did survive Anatoli had not brought him into camp.

While some have hailed Anatoli as a near superhuman hero and others as a man devoted only to his own clients, I do not get that sort of feeling from his words. Anatoli felt that anyone would have done what he did if he or she were able. He mourned over Yasuko, gathered her personal item for her family, and even buried her where she fell. He has said he did not know where Beck was, as Beck had become separated from the others.

His words have the ring of truth. Only those on the mountain that day could pass judgment on any decision made by anyone else who went through the same disastrous day. Each saw things from his or her perspective. Anatoli may not have thought himself a hero, but those that he aided can and have said differently!

I give the book four stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 19, 2017

K2: Triumph and Tragedy by Jim Curran

All 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks are located in the Himalaya or the Karakoram ranges in Asia. Of the group, Everest reigns as the supreme highest mountain in the world. And yet it is a neighbor with the strange name of “K2” that many consider the harder to climb. Everest is deadly, but the ridges running up to the summit are said to be less challenging than K2. K2 is the true monster among mountains.

During 1986, twenty-seven persons made the summit of K2, a triumph for the climbers. But thirteen persons lost their lives that year in the attempt to master what many have named “The Savage Mountain.”

Author Jim Curran was on the mountain during the summer of 1986. His work as a climbing cameraman for the British Fullers Expedition gave him plenty of insight into the climbers and the mountain.

Some of those who reached the summit of K2 that summer died on their way down. In fact, seven of the thirteen had reached the summit before disaster overtook them. Two Americans were killed in an avalanche, one man fell to his death in a crevasse just out of base camp, and seven were trapped at 26,000 feet for days. Only two would survive and they were almost dead when they finally were helped to base camp.

But all was not given to tragedy. A young man named Benoit Chamoux made a historic 23-hour climb. Wanda Rutkiewicz became the first woman to summit K2. There were moments of heroism, including the author’s rescue of one of the two survivors of the summit disaster.

Curran tells his story much like he lived it, one day at a time. We witness his rejoicing at the accomplishments of the climbers. We feel his anxiety when his friends are trapped for days. He shares his sorrow for the ones who were left behind, dead on the savage mountain that claimed their lives.

This is a fascinating account of triumph and tragedy. I give the book four stars.

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 19, 2017

Climbing High: A Woman’s Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy by Lene Gammelgaard

There have been many accounts written about the 1996 Everest tragedy. On May 10-11, eight people from three expeditions died when trapped by a storm in the Death Zone. They either disappeared on the mountain or were later discovered frozen to death. A ninth victim, Beck Weathers, survived after being left for dead when he was unable to move on his own. His walking into camp was nothing short of a miracle.

Lene Gammelgaard was one of the hikers that made the summit on that fatal trip. She was part of Scott Fisher’s Mountain Madness Expedition. Scott himself was one of the five people from the combined Adventure Consultants/Mountain Madness bid for the summit.

Lene tells her story with candid prose. She was one of the climbers lost in the whiteout above Camp Four. Only a break in the storm for an instant saved any of them. The sky was clear long enough for one of the climbers to get a bearing from the stars. Lene was one of the climbers who staggered to safety and alerted people to others dying not far from camp.

What really happened to trap the climbers is only known by the survivors. They lived the dreadful moments of being lost in a storm 8000 meters up. They knew the people who died and the horror of being able to do nothing to save them. Lene’s account is straightforward and not focused on blame but focused on survival!

I give the book four stars

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 19, 2017

After the Wind: Tragedy on Everest: One Survivor’s Story by Lou Kasischke

In 1996 eight people from three expeditions perished when trapped by a storm on Mount Everest. Included in the dead were the leaders of two of the expeditions, Rob Hall and Scott Fisher. There have been a lot of books written covering the tragedy, exploring exactly what went wrong.

Survivors have written books telling the tale from their own perspectives. These accounts do not always agree. I think it safe to say that if you were not there yourself, there is no way to know who is and who isn’t correct. Therefore I believe in taking everyone at their word that their story is what they experienced.

This is the story of Lou Kasischke. In the horror that descended on the mountain that day, Lou’s inner voice saved his life. With climbers still headed for the summit, Lou turned around knowing this was his only shot at Everest. Yet Lou came home from the mountain without severe injury. Others who summited never left the mountain…

Lou’s story of what happened rather than assign blame cites mistakes made for which there is no good answer. He had joined Rob Hall’s Adventure Consultants Expedition based on Rob’s success and his impeccable safety record. The year prior, Rob had turned his team around in sight of the peak when he felt conditions were not conducive to a safe summit bid.

Things didn’t go as planned in 1996. Rob’s usual all-star crew had prior commitments, so he had to replace them with men without the same experience. None of the new guides felt comfortable about making decisions without Rob. Rob’s inflexible turnaround time was ignored in favor of getting the most people to the summit. The sudden storm was the final blow.

Lou doesn’t discount sacrifices made to help rescue climbers lost in the storm and darkness. The questions he asks are about ways the tragedy might have been avoided altogether. Once disaster struck, efforts made to rescue the climbers were partially successful. One man survived after being left for dead. But five died including Rob and Mountain Madness Expedition leader Scott Fisher. Three more died from an expedition climbing Everest from the opposite side. Lou could have been among them except for obedience to that inner voice…

I give this book five stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 19, 2017

The Gospel of Mary by Philip Freeman

My thanks go out to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, and Maia Larson, for my copy of this book! Rock on!

An elderly nun, Sister Branwen, arrives at Kildare with a scroll of high value. Passing it off to Sister Deirdre, she gasps that they will be coming for it. She lapses into a coma and dies without speaking again.

Sister Branwen was in possession of a scroll supposedly written by the Virgin Mary. It is written in Aramaic, which Sister Deirdre and Father Ailbe are able to read and translate.

In order to do this, Sister Deirdre and her friend Sister Dari must find a place to hide. The Church of Rome has been trying to trace and destroy this scroll for years. Whether or not the scroll is genuine, it would cause further argument and chaos in the church which must be avoided at any cost! The Pope himself has sent Brother Bartholomew as an emissary with the authority to destroy the scroll and anyone who knows its secret by any means necessary!

I believe that the Sister Deirdre series may be favorably compared to Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma series. Both take place in ancient Ireland and deal with the mysterious, church policy, and Rome’s rise to total domination of the Catholic Church. Where Fidelma is a Princess and Lawyer as well as a religious; Deirdre is both a Christian and a Druid Bard. Both women have to balance the two sides of their life.

I have been a fan of Sister Deirdre from the first book in the series, and I hope to see many more books to come. I give the book five stars plus!

Quoth the Raven…

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