Narrator: Steve Campbell
Published by Penguin Audio on April 13, 2021
Genres: Non-fiction, Adventure Travel
Length: 12 hrs 38 mins
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Shivering, exhausted, gasping for oxygen, beyond doubt . . .
A hundred-year mystery lured veteran climber Mark Synnott into an unlikely expedition up Mount Everest during the spring 2019 season that came to be known as “the Year Everest Broke.” What he found was a gripping human story of impassioned characters from around the globe and a mountain that will consume your soul—and your life—if you let it.
The mystery? On June 8, 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine set out to stand on the roof of the world, where no one had stood before. They were last seen eight hundred feet shy of Everest’s summit still “going strong” for the top. Could they have succeeded decades before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay? Irvine is believed to have carried a Kodak camera with him to record their attempt, but it, along with his body, had never been found. Did the frozen film in that camera have a photograph of Mallory and Irvine on the summit before they disappeared into the clouds, never to be seen again? Kodak says the film might still be viable. . . .
Mark Synnott made his own ascent up the infamous North Face along with his friend Renan Ozturk, a filmmaker using drones higher than any had previously flown. Readers witness first-hand how Synnott’s quest led him from oxygen-deprivation training to archives and museums in England, to Kathmandu, the Tibetan high plateau, and up the North Face into a massive storm. The infamous traffic jams of climbers at the very summit immediately resulted in tragic deaths. Sherpas revolted. Chinese officials turned on Synnott’s team. An Indian woman miraculously crawled her way to frostbitten survival. Synnott himself went off the safety rope—one slip and no one would have been able to save him—committed to solving the mystery.
Eleven climbers died on Everest that season, all of them mesmerized by an irresistible magic. The Third Pole is a rapidly accelerating ride to the limitless joy and horror of human obsession.
I came into The Third Pole not knowing much about Mt Everest and, to be honest, not caring much about it either. But, the book looked interesting and I needed an Everest book for a bingo square. I ended up enjoying it. The mountain, the climbers, the support staff, it’s all fascinating.
Synnott and his team set out specifically not to summit, but to locate the body of Sandy Irvine, one of two men widely believed to have summited Mt. Everest from the north in 1924, decades before the much better-documented success of the Chinese in 1960. While the body of Irvine’s partner, George Mallory, was discovered in 1999, Irvine’s had yet to be definitively located, although there was speculation about where it was likely to be found. Armed with a drone to scope out the area before they made the climb, the team set out on a journey that was bound to significantly bend quite a few rules, if not outright break them.
For me though, the history surrounding Mallory and Irvine’s climb was interesting. I also found myself absorbed in the stories of other climbers, especially more recent ones – what drives them and the choices they make along the way. I learned a lot about the politics and morality surrounding the mountain and the tourist industry that has grown up around it.
The book is a bit of a mish-mash, which worked fine for me but maybe not others. Some climbers we meet for 10 pages, some we get full back stories on when they aren’t necessary. We learn about Irvine, but then Synnott’s team decides that the first objective is to summit and the search ends up being little more than a minor detour that upsets their guide who they supposedly respect.
The Third Pole was easy to read and I learned a lot, which is what I’m looking for in a non-fiction book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: