Everest : Mountain Without Mercy

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9780792270140: Everest : Mountain Without Mercy

David Breashears, the first American to scale Everest twice, was a veteran of nine previous Himalayan filmmaking expeditions when he agreed to lead what became his most challenging filmmaking experience. The expedition was organized by large-format motion picture producer MacGillivray Freeman Films and was comprised of an international team of climbers. Their goal was to carry a specially modified 48-pound IMAX motion picture camera to the summit of Everest and return from the top of the world with the first footage ever shot there in this spectacular format. A stunningly illustrated portrait of life and death in a hostile, high-altitude environment where no human can survive for long, Everest invites you to join Breashears, his climbers, and his crew as they make photographic history. Author Broughton Coburn traces each step of the team's progress toward a rendezvous with history - and suddenly you're on the scene of a disaster that riveted the world's attention. Everest incorporates a first-person, on-the-scene account of the most tragic event in the mountain's history: The May 10, 1996, blizzard that claimed eight lives, including two of the world's top climbing expedition leaders. It is a chronicle of the courage and cooperation that resulted in the rescue of several men and women who were trapped on the lethal, windswept slopes. Everest is also a tale of triumph. In a struggle to overcome both the physical and emotional effects of the disaster on Everest, Breashears and his team rise to the challenge of achieving their goal - humbled by the mountain's overwhelming power, yet exhilarated by their own accomplishment.

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Review:

When David Breashears agreed to climb Mount Everest with an IMAX camera in order to film from the summit, he had no idea that his little expedition would become embroiled in a tragedy that would make headlines around the world. On May 10, 1996, two expeditions led by experienced Everest guides Rob Hall and Scott Fisher summited the mountain, only to suffer the loss of eight members--including the two leaders--on the way back down. At the time, Breashears and his filmmaking crew were at the base camp preparing for their own climb--originally planned for that same day but postponed after realizing there would already be several other groups on the summit. Instead of making a film, Breashears and company participated in the rescue and only later reached the summit of Everest to successfully complete their film.

Broughton Coburn, a long-time resident of Nepal and a friend of David Breashears, was commissioned to write a book about the filmmaking expedition, the tragedy on Everest, and the mountain itself. He has more than succeeded with Everest: Mountain Without Mercy, a taut recounting of disaster and triumph at 29,000 feet. But this book is about more than just mountain climbing; Coburn has also included fascinating information about Nepal, Buddhism, and the Sherpa culture, as well as the history of climbing Everest. He covers everything from the causes of altitude sickness to Nepal's increasing problems with deforestation, and through it all he weaves the story of that day in May when Everest again proved unpredictable--and deadly. For a white-knuckle climb to the top of the world's highest mountain, complete with stunning photographs, you can't do better than Everest: Mountain Without Mercy.

From Booklist:

This glossy album of photos and text has two high-interest attributes: it is the companion to an IMAX film slated for 1998 release about an expedition to Everest; and the IMAX filmmakers participated in the May_ 1996 disaster-and-rescue drama on the mountain, a chronicle of which (Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer ) rocketed to first place on best-seller lists. Perhaps the latter fact makes National Geo's marketeers hopeful and tips libraries to inevitably strong demand for the title. The text is descriptive of the film team's reactions to the crisis but is a less compelling read than Into Thin Air; its signal asset is the hundred-plus photos of the earth's most titanic vistas. Alone worth the price of admission, the images allow the armchair alpinist to wonder at the sights both cultural and natural from Katmandu to the summit. Scenes of marketplaces, yak trains, Sherpas, and temples are buttressed by author Coburn's information about propitiation rituals and prayers addressed to mountain deities--not a bad idea before taking on a mountain that kills 20 percent of those who reach the top. Sidebars are varied, summing up the active geology of the Himalaya, the story of survivor Beck Weathers, or that of Everest's first summiteer, Tenzing Norgay, whose son figures in this expedition and in a triumphant photo at the summit. The pictures are absolutely awesome and exhilarating, fully imparting the lure and deadliness of an Everest experience. Gilbert Taylor

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