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3.5 out of 5 stars
The Climb Up to Hell
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon August 17, 2000
This book chronicles the dramatic 1957 rescue of an Italian, amateur mountain climber from the north face of the Eiger. It is written in somewhat of a potboiler style which makes it a real easy reading, page turner.
It is filled with facts and names from mountaineering history which will delight climbing enthusiasts. The famous Chamonix guide and one of the four climbers who figured prominently in the successful, yet tragic 1950 French conquest of Annapurna, Lionel Terray, figures prominently in the rescue portion of this narrative.
The account focuses on a somewhat inept, amateur mountaineer, Claudio Corti, from the Lecco region of Italy. Having lost a number of his roping partners to the grim reaper on prior ascents with him on various mountains, he naturally encountered some difficulty in finding one to accompany him on an expedition to climb the nearly vertical, north face of the Eiger. He finally inveigled Stefano Lhongi, a very inexperienced climber, to accompany him and attempt one of the most perilous ascents in the world.
This two man rope team was simply not prepared to make this ascent properly. Along their way up the north face of Eiger, they encounter two very experienced, German climbers also making the ascent of the Eiger's north face. What happens during their encounter, when disaster strikes, makes for some riveting reading.
While Claudio Corti comes across as a thoroughly despicable buffoon, one's heart cannot help but break for the hapless Stefano Longhi and the poignancy of his tragic end on the brink of rescue. The rescue itself is an amazing account of courage, bravado, and confusion, as a multitude of mountaineers converge upon Eiger in order to try and save the four mountaineers who had not returned.
While the rescue efforts account for the fate of the two Italians, the fate of the two German climbers was not ascertained until years later. This made for a mystery that for years caused members of the climbing community and journalists all over the world to heap opprobrium upon Corti, who proved himself to be simply an utter idiot. I leave if for readers of this book to discover for themselves what became of them.
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on October 12, 2001
This is a fast-moving account of a true and avoidable mountaineering accident and the ensuing rescue efforts. The author holds back the real story about the apparent culprit (assuming there is one) until the very end. Fans of classic mountaineering literature written by technically experienced mountaineers will not find everything they're looking for here. Those looking for a good read will.
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