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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas, 2008, * * *

Michael Kodas, a journalist for the Hartford Courant and several other Connecticut people collaborate with a successful climber of Everest to make an attempt at the summit of the one mountain every mountaineer hungers to put on their resume.  The book chronicles two parallel climbs,on opposite sides of the mountain -  Mr Kodas's party, and a party fully funded by a wealthy transplanted Bolivian doctor from the Washington, D.C. area. There is pure tragedy in the doctor's party as he hired a guide whose credentials he trusts but who turns out to be the lowest sort of glory hound. Mr Kodas's party, not even starting out with all members on level footing, descends into a bickering, acrimonious mess, with sabotage, missing equipment, and cruelty thrown into the mix. Most of the book seesaws between the tale of the doctor, left to die by an unscrupulous guide, the doctor's daughter's subsequent and dogged efforts to find the truth, and Mr Kodas's trials with the fractious and foreboding leader of his expedition.  High Crimes is a gripping and fascinating story proving that little has changed on Everest since Jon Krakauer’s bestseller Into Thin Air was published over a decade ago.   It is often difficult to comprehend what drives people to want to crawl up the face of a mountain, literally hanging in space, aware that they are courting frostbite, storms, failure, and death, from the capricious mountain they yearn to conquer. As it turns out, the mountain is almost the least of their worries!

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