23 February 2016
A friend of mine brought in several books the other day and we made a trade. He got a book on creativity, and I got a couple for the shop and one for my Everest shelf in my personal library.
I think he suspected that’s where this one would end up.
You see, Peter always comes into the shop when I’m unpacking an interesting lot; he must smell them as he walks past the door. He comes straight to my desk, picks up the choicest item (to my mind), and says, “How much is this one, Elizabeth?” and I respond, “I’m sorry Peter. <add put-off excuse here>” Once he even got tetchy with me. I do feel really badly to be denying him a great read. But my selfish streak is more powerful. It’s the collector in me. And I do love my polar exploration and mountaineering books. I really am sorry, Peter.
I like to think this book was his way of saying, “I understand.” LOL Maybe he was saying thank you because I finally let go and sold him one from my Antarctic collection.
I have a particular fascination for Everest, so Dead Lucky got a bump up my reading list – right to the top. And it didn’t disappoint.
Lincoln Hall was part of a pioneering Australian Everest expedition in 1984. The expedition had a bittersweet ending for him: he was the only one of who didn’t summit. He got on with his life, of course, climbing other great mountains, getting married and starting a family, becoming an author and the editor of an Outdoor Australia magazine, and so on. Always tugging at his subconscious, though, was the summit of the world’s highest peak. Deep down, Hall still craved the view from the Top of the World. To be able to say, “Yes, I climbed Everest,” and then, “Yes, I did make the summit!”
His opportunity came with a 2006 expedition, as a cameraman filming the ascent of a teen who hoped to become the youngest ever to summit. He answered the call, even though he really didn’t feel that he was as prepared as he should be.
There are several things I really like about this book. Reading it, I felt more like a friend talking to Lincoln about the whole experience of climbing. He shares his concerns about his readiness, his rationale, his family, his hallucinations on the mountain, his insecurity over the effect of his words and actions on others while he suffered the effects of cerebral edema, how his beliefs came into play and affected his survival…. He is frank. Readers become a part of the experience, perhaps feeling a little off balance at times but never to the point that we are overwhelmed. The harsh reality of climbing in the Death Zone is there. Fortunately, we have a good guide we can trust, very much like Lincoln Hall himself did.
There are betrayals both real and perceived in this story, too, some of which are resolved, others that Hall understands he will never understand. He accepts that and walks away from them. That latter response was one that took a strength of character not surprising, perhaps, in one who has survived something no other climber ever has. Any one of the four conditions he suffered from should have killed him. In fact, he was believed to be, and abandoned as, dead above 28,000 feet. Lincoln Hall’s response to betrayal, more than anything else in the book, has given me a lesson I will be thinking about for some time, all the more so because it wasn’t intended as a lesson, just as a statement of how he coped with what happened to him.
Finally, it’s about drama in real life. People who have so much going for them throwing their lives at a 29,000 foot mountain of rock, ice, snow, thin air, and incredible danger. I still don’t understand that. I probably never will. And what I don’t understand often fascinates me. I never could turn down a good mystery.