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Everest: Expedition to the Ultimate

by Reinhold Messner

Translated by Audrey Salkeld
New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. 254 pages. Many photographs in black-and-white and in colour

“The 1978 Austrian expedition (…) wanted to achieve the first Austrian ascent and at the same time (if possible) achieve the first ascent without the use of breathing apparatus. They succeeded in both objectives.
To climb Everest without oxygen must rank as one of the outstanding achievements in present day mountaineering and one cannot help admiring Messner (and Habeler) not only for the achievement itself but for the fact that they were stepping into the unknown and subjecting themselves to physiological and psychological problems which no one had faced before. . In doing so there was the ever present danger of death or permanent brain damage. In view of these problems one would expect the book to be a gripping account of the expedition, its successes and fortunes, but instead the reader is treated to a terse and clipped account (much of it transcribed from taped diaries) which makes for difficulty in parts very boring reading. At one point in the narrative Messner mentions "the banality of camp conversation' while at the same time subjecting the reader to page after page of just that.”
Mike Richardson, “Crags” No. 20, p. 34

“This book is written in a now familiar style to the avid reader of the Messner books. It is easy to comprehend, there is philosophy on every page and it is all written with an immediacy that only instant tape recordings and jottings can give. Climbers will relate and empathise with many of Messner's comments and observations. (…)
 Messner concluded this book with rules for writing and a final sentence, "If a man is not prepared to reveal anything, he has nothing to say," But long ago it was noted that, 'He that says does not know and he that knows does not say'. Still we all look forward to Messner's next book.”
Doug Scott, „Mountain” 1979, September/October, No. 69, p. 51

“The second book to appear this year on the Messner/Habeler oxygen-less climb of Everest  this is an infinitely better production from the point of view of quality of lay-out and illustration but a strangely unsatisfying one from the point of view of content. No complaints about the quality of the translation here, it is just that Messner's convoluted thoughts and conversations about 'no oxygen1 go on and on. Obviously, this is the whole point of the book, and no one wishes to take away the magnificence of the achievement, but the use of the term 'Death Zone' or the upper reaches of the mountain and section headings such as 'Soul in Transit' give some indications of the type of thing that doesn't appeal to this reviewer.”
“Alpine Journal” 1980 p. 255

“Everest addicts have their choice of two descriptions of the first ascent without supplementary oxygen by each of the two mountaineering stars involved—Peter Habeler (The Lonely Victory: Mount Everest '78, ed.) and Reinhold Messner. Starting these volumes, I soon discovered that to find out what really happened one had to read both. Each is extremely egocentric, and the two have a dichotomous set of deleted incidents. (…)Those who want a more historical and balanced account will prefer Messner's. He gives full credit to the early British climbers and accepts their contention that in the right circumstances they might have gone all the way without a mask.”
Louis F. Reichardt, “American Alpine Journal” 1980 p. 662-663



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