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Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season

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Overview

Nick Heil tells the story of 2006, the deadliest year on Everest since the infamous season of 1996. As more climbers attempt the summit each year, Heil shows how increasingly risky expeditions and unscrupulous outfitters threaten to turn Everest into a deadly circus.
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Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season

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Overview

Nick Heil tells the story of 2006, the deadliest year on Everest since the infamous season of 1996. As more climbers attempt the summit each year, Heil shows how increasingly risky expeditions and unscrupulous outfitters threaten to turn Everest into a deadly circus.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

The 2006 Mount Everest climbing season was only the second deadliest, but it was by far the most controversial. Eleven people perished; David Sharp died while 40 climbers walked by, and Lincoln Hall was left for dead but miraculously survived. Notably chronicled in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air and Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb, the 1996 season holds the ominous distinction as deadliest, but perhaps without any cautionary effect. Still, 1996 remains a turning point in the public perception of Everest, now seen as having become commercialized, overcrowded, and unregulated-a place where money had superseded skill. Heil (Men's Journal, Outside Magazine) tells the complete story of the 2006 season (using 1996 as a backdrop) by introducing Russell Brice-Everest's largest commercial operator-and by using the story of encountered but "abandoned" climber David Sharp as the impetus for investigating whether or not it should be every man for himself on the mountain.

Ten days after Sharp died, Hall (White Limbo) was pronounced dead from poor acclimatization, and the news spread around the world. The next morning climbers discovered him sitting cross-legged on the summit ridge. Hall explains what brought him to Everest (for the second time); why climbers risk amputated digits, destroyed brain cells, and death; and what got him through that night sitting alone on the top of the world. Offering macro and micro perspectives of the same scenario, both authors acknowledge that priorities have deteriorated through selfish overpopulation but also argue that journalists have shed a selective light on these stories. At the end of the day, in an environment where each breathbreathed is more valuable than any word it can carry and simply being at that altitude is deadly, you can only be responsible for yourself. Recommended for all libraries.
—Ben Malczewski

Kirkus Reviews
Freelance journalist Heil, a former climbing instructor and Outside magazine editor, chronicles the deadly 2006 season on Everest, during which 11 climbers perished. Adding to the growing number of cautionary books about assaying the world's highest peak, the debut author focuses on two deaths and one miraculous rescue. Less accusatory than others who have recently peered up Everest, most notably Michael Kodas (High Crimes, 2008), Heil emphasizes the dangers that climbers inevitably assume and the near impossibility of effecting a rescue from high on the mountain. He is sympathetic to commercial operators like Russell Brice, who charges $40,000 for a "fully equipped" Everest climb but also, Heil argues, provides a margin of safety that many discount outfitters do not. Brice was vilified in 2006 when he ordered some of his summit team to abandon solo climber David Sharp, who was found near death atop the mountain. Brice's Sherpas tried in vain to rouse Sharp, but he was unresponsive and severely frostbitten. A rescue was nearly impossible, Brice contended, and would have probably cost the lives of the rescue team. But Sharp's death became even more controversial when another severely debilitated climber, Lincoln Hall, survived being left overnight in Everest's Death Zone. Heil agrees with those who felt that Sharp knowingly took severe risks and probably could not have been saved. He is less sanguine about the death that same week of German climber Thomas Weber, quoting several witnesses who claim that Weber's guide did little to help the stricken climber when he lost his vision atop the mountain and collapsed. The author sprinkles a smattering of Everest history into his clear-eyed ifless-than-gripping account, and while providing little that is groundbreaking, he does create a worthy primer on Everest mountaineering and a chilling look at the precarious line between success and tragedy. A dramatic story, ably and convincingly told. Agent: Sloan Harris/ICM
From the Publisher
"Here is humanity itself, personified in exemplary fashion by Nick Heil, addressing the Everest culture's lack of compassion and coming up with the right answers." —-Bob Shacochis, author of The Immaculate Invasion
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805089912
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/3/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 306
  • Sales rank: 302,381
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Heil first wrote about the 2006 climbing season for Men’s Journal. Now a freelance journalist based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he was a senior editor at Outside from 1999 to 2006. He has also worked as a climbing and skiing instructor, and has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and North America.

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Table of Contents

Partial List of Teams and Climbers

Prologue 1

Pt. I David Sharp

1 Kathmandu 13

2 The North Side 46

3 Base Camp: Tibet 70

4 Advanced Base Camp 100

5 The Northeast Ridge 134

Pt. II Lincoln Hall and Thomas Weber

6 High Camp 161

7 The Second Step 188

8 Dark Summit 208

Epilogue 231

Author's Note 249

Source Notes 253

Acknowledgments 259

Index 261

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 31 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2008

    A great book

    I found this to be a much better read than Krakauer's self serving Into Thin Air. Although the opening chapters with the history of the mountain were a bit dry. I, like the previous reviewer, feel that the author defended Russel Brice and his Himex team and rightfully so. There is not one documented rescue of a non ambulatory climber from above 8000 meters. Why risk lives attempting the impossible? One of, if not THE, finest mountaineers of all time put it rather succinctly when he said 'reaching the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.' Too many of the climbers who died in this saga, including David Sharp, for whatever reason disregarded this sage advice and paid with their lives. I used to be fascinated with the thought of climbing this mountain but no longer. I've read too many books now which discribe the log (people) jams on this mountain where it seems the rule is every man 'woman' for themselves. I watched the documentary on Discovery of the Himex expedition and feel that not enough operators take his hard line approach as to who gets to make a summit attempt.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Required reading for anyone who wants to climb mountains

    Every year mountaineers from around the world are drawn to the base of Everest - whose peak reaches 29,035 feet into the sky - to attempt to reach the summit. Many have died climbing Everest, but perhaps no single death had created more controversy than the death of British climber David Sharp during the 2006 climbing season. In all, the 2006 season resulted in 11 deaths - the second deadliest season on record. In Dark Summit, author Nick Heil creates a detailed account of the events of 2006 that took place on the north side of Everest, including David Sharp's death, the miraculous rescue of Lincoln Hall and the ethical questions being raised as more and more people with less and less experience attempt to climb the highest peak on earth. Nick Heil is an experienced climber, but he was not on Everest in 2006. Rather than handicapping him as an outsider, it actually enhances his credibility. The book creates a comprehensive review detailing exactly what happened on the mountain and allows the reader to make their own decisions about what to think about the industry that has formed on the side of Everest. Aside from being well researched, it is also a very compelling read, told with a story telling knack that any reader should appreciate. I highly recommend the book for anyone who has ever wondered what goes on at the top of the world.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    chilling yet fascinating

    In 2006, eleven climbers died trying to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. The most famous fatality was David Sharp who was left near the top still alive while forty other people continued their ascent. One week later, Lincoln Hall was left to die at the same spot that Sharp died he survived that night without shelter leading to speculation re Sharp. --- Nick Heil investigates the true story of what went wrong on the Everest climb in the deadliest year since 1996. He makes the case that some ruthless commercial operators are making increasing access available but at the cost of dramatic increase in risk. Readers will be hooked by Mr. Heil¿s passion for mountain climbing while horrified by the avarice of some to take advantage of the obsession of many advocates to claim they reached the top of the world. The author points out rescue is usually impossible and can endanger others while he also defends operator Brice who was accused of abandoning Sharp to die on the mountain¿s Death Zone. However, Mr. Heil also rips less conscientious operators like the guide who failed to assist a confused Thomas Weber, who other climbers felt could be rescued. This is chilling yet fascinating as Mr. Heil provides a lucid account of the deaths on the DARK SUMMIT. --- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    Liked it a lot

    I'm very big into high altitude mountaineering and especially Everest. I really enjoyed the discussion about Russell Brice and how he was envolved with the expeditions in the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    WOW!! Very Good!!

    Ths book was very good. It was a fair and honest account of the events in 2006. The book helps put you in the action without having to get frostbitten or cold. Man vs. Nature at its finest.

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