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Dark Summit: 05/17/08
Although Dark Summit sells itself as "the true story of Everest's most controversial season" it also tries to a be a more general history of climbing on Everest. While the details of the mountain's history are interesting and perhaps necessary to help readers put the 2006 season into perspective, the presentation of these facts interrupts the core story.
Nick Heil recreates the 2006 season on Mt Everest and focuses mostly on the climb lead by Russell Brice's Himex team. He breaks the book up into two parts: David Sharp (the expert who died) and Lincoln hall and Thomas Weber (Hall being the man who was pronounced dead but managed to survive the night). He further breaks up the book into chapters named for the different camps along the climb. The David Sharp half takes up 2/3 of the book leaving Lincoln Hall's amazing survival to round out the book in breakneck speed.
The pacing problems come in the David Sharp section. Just as Brice's team is setting out on their climb Heil begins dumping massive amounts of Everest history into his chapters. I think since David Sharp died on the climb and was an Everest celebrity, Heil felt compelled to include a mini biography of the man. Unfortunately Dark Summit isn't set up to be David Sharp's biography. It's supposed to be an examination of what might have gone wrong in the 2006 season or more precisely: what factors were different with Sharp's climb versus Hall's climb that made it possible for one to survive and not the other? With the bulk of the book bogged down with Sharp's life, there isn't much time to actually look at the climb or the 2006 season.
I liked the initial chapter "Katmandu" which sets the stage for the 2006 season and explains the business behind these expeditions. I also enjoyed the entire second section dedicated to Lincoln Hall and Thomas Weber because of the analysis of the rescue methods and the aftermath of the season. If more of the book had been like this final part, I would be raving about this book rather than giving it a luke warm review.
Despite Dark Summit's flaws I did learn a thing or two about Mt. Everest.