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In 1988, Stephen Venables became the first Briton to summit Everest without oxygen. Everest: Alone at the Summit is the story of his thrilling journey. Near-impossible challenges are conquered with determination and strength, and the experience of an expedition on the world’s highest mountain is recounted in a refreshingly honest light.
The Kangshung Face remains the least frequented of Everest’s flanks due to its narrow gullies, hanging glaciers and steep rock buttresses. This, however, did not deter Venables and his team of three international climbers, Ed Webster, Robert Anderson and Paul Teare, who not only attempted this dangerous route, but did so without the use of supplementary oxygen – testing boundaries, exploring the unknown and pushing the limits of human endurance.
‘ … I forced my mind to concentrate on directing all energy to those two withered legs. The effort succeeded and I managed six faltering steps down the slope, sat back for a rest, then took six steps more, then again six steps. It was going to be a long tedious struggle, but I knew now that I was going to make it.’
Venables’ account of survival and success is fully immersive. He details the highs – the unique bonds made on the mountain, the stunning scenery, and the triumph of reaching the summit – as well as the lows: the threat of deadly high-altitude illness, turbulent weather and the exhaustion-induced hallucinations. Throughout it all, Venables’ drive to keep going amidst hardship and his willingness to succeed is powerful – readers will find themselves invested in this extraordinary narrative from the start.
As Lord Hunt, the leader of Everest’s 1953 expedition, observes in the foreword: ‘People who, in this age of ease and plenty, pause to reflect upon the reason why some prefer to do things the hard way, could hardly do better than read this book.’