Picks and Pans Review: Everest: Mountain Without Mercy
Capping a year filled with Everest-related books and movies, author Broughton Coburn here tells the compelling story of the May 1996 expedition by a multinational filmmaking team that brought back the first IMAX footage of Everest's summit. Unlike the ill-fated ascents of mountaineers Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, whose agonies were chronicled in Jon Krakauer's bestselling Into Thin Air, this is a success story. But the IMAX team, led by veteran climber and filmmaker David Breashears, was devastated and humbled when they witnessed that unfolding tragedy from close up and played a part in the rescue efforts.
Everest is packed with breathtaking images—captured by a custom-made, 25-pound, large-format IMAX camera—as well as all manner of Everest lore, from the mountain's place in Tibetan and Nepalese spiritual life to digressions on geology, oxygen canisters and commercialization. Looming over all is the continuing, mysterious hold the mountain exerts over its suitors. The most experienced climbers, in fact, seem the most in awe of its power. "You don't assault Everest," explains Ed Viesturs, who has conquered the summit four times (and is one of the few people in the world who is capable of making the climb without supplemental oxygen). "You sneak up on it," he says, "and then get the hell outta there." (National Geographic, $35)