Cover Image: The Hunt for Mount Everest

The Hunt for Mount Everest

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I wasn’t sure what I would make from this book as it’s not my usual read. However  I did enjoy this book. The story about Mount Everest is a lot more complicated than I had ever  imagined. The book details these complications through a conversational discussion of the history, geography and politics of the region. Publish date October 21 so for anyone interested in a great historical read with lots of history and politics thrown in then this is a book you should put on your reading list.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

If you're interested in the history of mountaineering, exploration, or Mount Everest, this is definitely a book for you.  It takes a narrower view than I was expecting - it focuses on the time period between when Everest was first measured in 1850, to when the first westerner expedition actually reached the mountain in 1921.  Everest wasn't actually summited until 1953, so if you're expecting to see names like Hillary and Norgay in this book, they're not within the focus.  

I definitely learned a lot - I had zero knowledge of this topic before reading this, so everything was new information for me.  Some of the historical figures were really interesting, especially Francis Younghusband and Alexander Kellas -  I would seek out further books on them in the future.  The hubris and imperialism of the time are on full display, of course.

In terms of writing, this was matter-of-fact and dry - the author wastes no time and dives right into the subject matter, and it's presented in a very straightforward manner.  I do think that having a pre-existing interest in the subject would make this a more entertaining read, instead of just an educational one.
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I am not a mountaineering or climbing person. I am, though, fascinated by tales of 'discovery' and history in general and finding out about bits I know nothing of. 

'Discovery' in quotes because, of course, while this story is about the hunt for "Mt Everest", it's not like the mountain was unknown to the people of Tibet or Nepal or, I imagine, people in China or (what is now) India. And thankfully Storti makes this clear fairly often - that this is discovery only for westerners and, in particular, the British. Storti is under no illusions that some of the things done by the British in both India and Tibet were despicable, and I think he keeps an even hand in explaining the contemporary reasoning (I learned more about "the Great Game" of Britain v Russia in this one book than ever before; the 19th century is so not my period), while simultaneously not excusing or approving of, for instance, sending spies into Tibet when it was explicitly closed to foreigners. 

So: the book! The overall point is the discovery that what the British decided to call Mt Everest turns out to be the highest peak in the world. (Yes, there's a section on why it's called Mt Everest, and the fact that didn't even match contemporary expectations of using local names.) There's a digression into the 'discovery' of mountains as beautiful - until the early 19th century they were generally dismissed as being a waste of space and just getting in the way; and also about the development of mountaineering as a hobby, and people climbing in the Alps. Also a whole bit about the great trigonometric survey of India, which was fascinating and absolutely relevant and also bonkers as an undertaking. Within all of that is the colonial attitude towards India, and towards Tibet in particular - the fact that Tibetans didn't want the British within their borders and what some men did in contravention of that (Mr Younghouse, I'm looking at you, arrogant bastard). And eventually, there's the expedition in 1921 that finally means westerners got a look at Mt Everest from close up. 

Storti writes a really engaging narrative, explains issues clearly, and balances storytelling with historicity. As someone on the outside of mountaineering I'm unconvinced that George Mallory is more important than Edmund Hillary in the whole Everest saga, but I'll allow him to champion the man now I know a bit more about him (interesting to read about, probably a right pain in the bum to actually spend time with). 

This was a really fun book to read (well, fun and sometimes tragic, as is always the case with both mountaineering history and colonial history).
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With the path to the top of Mount Everest now clogged with adventurers waiting their turn to summit, it is hard to believe that it was just 100 years ago when westerners stood for the first time at the base of the great mountain.  That 1921 expedition by a small team of British climbers and scientists who trekked for days, along with local porters and pack animals, across the rugged mountains and plains of Tibet to find the fabled Everest, is the subject of Craig Storti's readable, sometimes gripping, well-researched account, "The Hunt for Mount Everest."

As told, the story begins well before the 1921 expedition, and is populated by a cast of daring and larger-than-life mountaineers -- most of whom were Europeans who honed their climbing skills in the much lower altitudes of the Alps.  Located on the border between Nepal and Tibet -- countries that were historically inaccessible and politically closed to the outside world -- the existence and location of Everest, and its identity as the world's highest peak, was debated for decades until finally confirmed by Nineteenth Century scientists.  Even then, climbers were unable to enter either Nepal or Tibet, and thus unable to hike within sight of Everest, much less attempt to scale the mountain.

Alexander Kellas, one pre-1921 adventurer told of "downed bridges; bottomless crevasses to leap over, go around or even bridge in some cases; seracs that could collapse at any moment; raging torrents to cross; piercing cold winds; all-enveloping mists; waist-deep snowfields taking hours to wade through; snow-blindness; frostbite; headache-inducing sun glare; storms that come on in minutes; the constant risk of avalanches and rock falls; giant ice fields; stubborn and frightened porters who refuse to go on," and more.  And all this in some of the "lower" mountains of the Himalayas.

Kellas is one of the book's fascinating characters, but none looms larger than George Mallory, the pre-eminent climber who, as part of the 1921 expedition, was arguably the first Westerner to set foot on Everest -- and whose life subsequently became consumed by the mountain.  The aim of the expedition had been not simply to locate and stand upon Everest but to summit the mountain, or at least attempt to identify a path to the top.  For a variety of reasons, the team failed in its ultimate goal, but the 1953 conquering of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay owed much to Mallory and those who came before.

"It must be remembered that they did not know where they were going," Storti writes of the 1921 expeditionary team.  The Everest Saga, filled with great risk and adventure and unspeakable tragedy, is as epic and formidable as the mountain itself, and Storti does a wonderful job of telling it.

Thanks to Nicholas Brealey Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read the book in advance of its publication.
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I've forever been fascinated by Mt. Everest and the many trips and climbs to reach the highest mountain. This book is just what the Everest enthusiast needs to realize their journey! I really enjoyed it! 

Thank you Net Galley for the copy in exchange for my honest review!
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The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti provides an intensely well defined and informative storyline about the finding and exploration of Mount Everest. The events described in the book provide factual and in-depth data about the original passions or interests carried by academics, surveyors and adventures to understand the mystical as well as natural science behind the mountain range. The book provides a combination of historical accounts that allow lovers of history, mountaineers, scientists or day to day readers to find a deep understanding of the events that happened before our times. I recommend this book to any person who searches for the theoretical or human-like impacts Mountain Everest had on society, countries and the ordinary person since the discovery thereof. In summary, this book remains a must buy.
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Standing tall—taller than everything else on the planet—and aloof, there was a mountain, mighty and majestic, unknown to the humans for the best part of their history. It still stands tall—in fact a bit taller than before—but is no longer left alone; besieged by thousands of people willing to risk their lives just to set foot on its summit, Mount Everest is the most famous mountain on earth today. The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti tells the story of this transformation from obscurity to renown, from the moment when some British surveyors on the hills near Darjeeling in British India trained their theodolites on this blotch on the horizon a hundred-odd miles away, up to the day seventy-one years later when a group of mountaineers and explorers stood at the foot on this colossus. 

Situated on the Tibet-Nepal border, Mount Everest was inaccessible to the western explorers—particularly to the British rulers of the neighbouring India—due to political considerations. But that did not deter some enterprising individuals, drawn by the irresistible allure of the mountain, from doing all that was possible to find it, reach it and climb it. The account of these efforts is full of absorbing drama, political intrigue and espionage, wars and treaties, acts of cleverness and foolishness, feats of determination and endurance, and a lot of breath-taking adventure. Spanning across several decades and featuring an eclectic cast of characters—some well-known, like Sir Francis Younghusband, Lord Curzon and George Mallory, and some unsung, like Alexander Kellas, Sir Charles Bell and Guy Bullock—The Hunt for Mount Everest is a magnificent picture set on the immense canvass of the Himalayas.

While much has been written about Mount Everest and the attempts to climb it, beginning with the first attempt in 1921, there is little publicised information about the decades prior to that, and this book fills that void pretty nicely. In addition to telling the Everest story, the author generously touches upon the history of mountaineering itself—beginning with alpine climbing in late eighteenth century—providing a detailed background to the core of this book.

Backed by meticulous research and written in an appealing prose, The Hunt for Mount Everest is an essential read for all those who love mountains, mountaineering and adventure in general. My heartfelt thanks to Craig Storti, Nicholas Brealy Publishing and NetGalley, for the privilege to read and review the e-ARC of this engaging and enlightening work.
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Great book with a broad scope

I enjoyed this book. The story about Mount Everest is more complicated than I had imagined. The book explores these complications through a brisk, conversational discussion of the history, geography and politics of the region. This is a much broader scope than I was expecting. I also enjoyed all the biographical information. Overall this book is a great look at the discovery of the great mountain. Thank you to Netgalley and Nicholas Brealey US for the advance reader copy.
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This history of Mount Everest's early years in the public imagination is nonfiction at its finest!

The average reader may know a little about the 20th/21st century story of Everest... the summit conquered, the lives claimed, the burgeoning waste and crowding problems. A reader may know about George Mallory, one of the first and most famous climbers who lost his life on the mountain in the 1920's. Most histories of Everest would <i>begin</i> with him.
But in a fascinating rewind, this book treats Mallory as the <i>end</i> of the story, a story decades in the making, in which Everest is all but invisible to human eyes.

And it all begins with math. For decades, no Westerner could approach the mountain closer than about 100 miles due to the political restrictions enforced by Nepal and Tibet. And it's so remote that very few Easterners had ever gotten close to it either. From Darjeeling, India, on a clear day, the tip of Mount Everest could be seen, although it looks lower from there than other mountains due to the curvature of the earth. This book describes the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, a British project that took most of the 19th century to complete.

The calculations that led to the discovery, the frustrating attempts to get closer, the clandestine forays into Tibet, the fights and bloodshed that changed the political landscape, the countless feats of human strength and derring-do, and the humanizing of those early explorers all make for absolutely compelling reading. (I <i>still</i> want to know <i>how close Alexander Kellas got in 1913!</i>) The Googling kept me up late at night.

The book focuses mostly on the all-consuming goal of getting to the mountain, with all the bravery and persistence that required. But it also drops in a few thought-provoking observations about why these men were so driven to reach it. The spirit of exploration ("we climb it because it's there") was at its zenith, but there were some darker philosophies at work too. The author notes that it was "imperial hubris" that supported the British in their attitude that they <i>must</i> be the finders, climbers, and conquerors of the mountain. And one of the most ardent explorers described it as an effort to dispel "the ridiculous idea of the littleness of man." Yes, there's much to think about here.

I could have done with a little condensing of the political context, but this book was well written and gripping throughout. Easily one of the best works of nonfiction I've read!
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You may believe Everest was always there, but someone had to find it first. This tells that tale. Fascinating
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I cannot believe that someone would write a book on the history of Mt.Everest. However, I consider this book to be knowledgeable , insightful, humorous, and all around interesting. From the discovery of the highest mountain, the practice of mountain climbing around the world, to political events, and scientists exploration and observation; it was all leading toward the goal of  Mt. Everest. For enthusiast of mountaineering history and Mt.Everest, I highly recommend this book.
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Nearly a century after Western climbers reached its zenith, Mount Everest still looms large in the human imagination. In The Hunt for Mount Everest, Craig Storti takes the reader on the adventurous and breath-taking true story of how some of the 20th centuries greatest explorers – Everest, Mallory, and Curzon, among them – sought to tame the world’s highest height.

In well-written and interesting prose, Storti brings to life the exploration age of the early 20th century. He shows how that spirit of adventure illuminated the “hunt” for Everest and places the race to the summit, finally, in its proper historical context. For lovers of history, geography, and stories of human might, this book is not one to be missed!
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The Hunt for Mount Everest is an in-depth look at the quest to reach the world's highest mountain.  It follows the stories of George Everest, Francis Younghusband, George Mallory, Lord Curzon, Edward Whymper, and others during their explorations.  The book provides the backstory before most Mount Everest books even begin.  It is an interesting, dangerous, and amazing story of the quest to reach - and summit - Mount Everest.  

I found this book interesting and well-written.  I was unaware of the "history" of Mount Everest prior to George Mallory and Guy Bollock reaching the top.  This year, 2021, is the 100 year anniversary of hikers reaching the top of the world's highest mountain - this book is an excellent tribute of what happened prior to that feat - the true history of Mount Everest.

Thank you NetGalley for an ARC of this book.
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