Camp Six: The 1933 Everest Expedition
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Frank Smythe's Camp Six is one of the greatest Everest accounts ever written. It is the story of the 1933 Everest Expedition, in which Smythe, climbing alone after his partner Eric Shipton had turned back ill, reached a point perhaps higher than any man had done before - and some twenty years before the eventual first ascent. Rope-less, oxygen free and in terrible snow conditions, his climb was one of the greatest endeavours in the history of Everest. Camp Six is a compelling read: a gripping adventure on the highest mountain in the world and a fascinating window into early mountaineering and Himalayan exploration - including an illuminating colonial view of early travels in Tibet. It is essential reading for all those interested in Everest and in the danger and drama of those early expeditions. Frank Smythe was one of the leading mountaineers of the twentieth century, an outstanding climber who, in his short life - he died aged forty-nine -was at the centre of high-altitude mountaineering development in its early years. Author of twenty-seven immensely popular books, he was an early example of the climber as celebrity.
parched mud of a riverbed. The only way of preventing its depredations is to keep the skin moist and pliable with face cream, and I had nursed my own countenance with loving care, but even so, one corner of my lip was unpleasantly cracked. Others with a healthy disregard for cosmetics were in worse plight, and Tom Brocklebank’s face had been reduced to a condition suggestive of a lunar landscape. In the afternoon we climbed up a steep path to the nunnery where we were warmly welcomed by the
bowed low in gratitude. It was not a pleasant evening. The wind hurled itself furiously at the camp, and clouds of dust enveloped everything – our clothes, our hair, our sleeping bags, the food we ate, were covered with this abominable dust. Our porters, in a praiseworthy attempt to provide us with a change of diet, spent some time in snaring snow trout from a stream. They caught two or three, but they were small and bony and not worth eating. Such poaching was not favoured by the nuns, and
us hell? A burning question that only time could solve. As Hugh said, ‘There is a tremendous spirit of optimism in this party.’ It was a necessary spirit, for, in the words of Paul Bauer, speaking of Kangchenjunga, ‘One has got to be an optimist to climb a great peak in the Himalayas.’ In the afternoon our old enemy the wind remembered us, and squall after squall of dust beat down on the camp. Apart from checking over stores there were various odd jobs. Waggers who was attending to
disagreeable task this is in a small tent at 25,700 feet. At high altitudes refuelling the body is a sordid and distasteful business. Everything seems to conspire against it being performed quickly and efficiently. The tin opener has disappeared. Everyone last saw it in a different place; it would appear to combine the ingenuity of a Maskelyne with the elusiveness of a Houdini. It is found at last in the most obvious and conspicuous place of all where, of course, no one had thought to look for
and massaged his numbed feet. Fortunately, there was little or no wind; otherwise both must have been dangerously frostbitten. Not far beyond this halting-place Wyn discovered the ice axe which can only have belonged to Mallory or Irvine. It was lying on the slabs, which are hereabouts inclined at an angle of thirty-five to forty degrees, unsupported by crack or ledge, and dependent on friction alone for its lodgement. For the time being the axe was left where it was found and they