When I want to escape "real life" through a book, one about scaling one of Earth's 8,000 meter mountains does the trick and this one is no exception. I loved this book on a different type of expedition to climb Mount Everest. Here is my review of "The Third Pole."
Title/Author: “The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession and Death on Everest” by Mark Synnott
Rating: 4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)
Review: Even with today’s guided climbs of Mount Everest which result in even novice climbers reaching the summit of the world’s tallest mountain, the peak still inspires wonder and even a mystery. It was a mystery that was nearly 100 years old that inspired the author of this book, Mark Synnott, to undertake an expedition on Everest and his account of this made for a great engrossing book. Add in stories of other climbers and the reason why he wanted to solve this mystery makes it a gripping read as well.
The mystery is a question of who were truly the first climbers to reach Everest’s peak. History shows that it was Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, but nearly thirty years earlier, two British explorers, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, attempted the feat. They were last seen 800 feet short of the summit and Irvine allegedly had a Kodak camera that would have shown if they had reached the top and taken photos. That had never been proven one way or another, not even when Mallory’s body was found in 1999. Since Irvine’s body and the camera had never been found, Synnott became part of a 2019 expedition that want to answer the question. This expedition would not only be human but also use drones for recording and filming any evidence of Mallory and Irvine reaching the summit.
What evolves is not only what Synnott and the other team members endure on the mountain and at ground level (bureaucratic red tape by the Chinese government) but also an excellent critique of other aspects of scaling Everest. One of the best sections on topics not related to Synnott’s expedition is his description of the exploitation of the work done by sherpas. He tells of their dangerous work and the inadequate recognition and respect given to them. However, many people will risk their lives and their relationships for this occupation as the payout will often make a sherpa financially set for the rest of their life. He also includes a nice explanation of the general use of the word “sherpa” against the culture of the Sherpas in Nepal.
A reader who is not familiar with the climb by Mallory and Irvine will learn about it and the two climbers with enough information to understand why Synnott wanted to make this trek. This isn’t everything known about them, however, and there are other books on them if the reader wants to know their complete story. These bits about them are woven into the book at different times and it will require careful reading to keep their stories apart from those of the other climbers, but it is worth the time to do so.
Adventures and results of other climbers are also interspersed in the book, both for those who reached the summit and survived and for those who perished. The stories are personal, engrossing and will evoke many emotions for readers. One in particular that covers the gamut of these emotions is the climb by a British woman named Kamaljeet Kaur, who went by the name “Kam.” After a brutal gang attack and subsequent depression, Kam used climbing as her therapy and it led her to Everest, where she eventually reached the top but nearly died in the process. The writing of her story is not only hard to put down, but hard to read at times. However, it is one that illustrates what makes this book so good for any reader who likes adventure or mountaineering books. And the result of Synnott’s expedition? No spoilers here – pick up the book to find that out and be prepared to be drawn into the wonder of Mount Everest.
I wish to thank Dutton Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.