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ALONE TO EVEREST Earl Denman 1st US ed Hardcover DJ Fine
By Denman, Earl
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New York, 1954, 1st edition. 255 pp, b/w photos. Navy hardcover with nice dust jacket. Former owner's inscription on FEP, else Fine.

A solo attempt on Everest, plus African climbs. The personal experiences of a solo mountaineer, who, with almost no money became the first white man to climb all eight of the Virunga Mountains in the Congo and who then, with two Sherpas (including Tenzing) made an unsuccessful assault on Mount Everest, despite reaching 23,500 feet. 

The most bizarre attempt on Everest has to be that of Maurice Wilson who in 1934 planned to crash land a plane on Everest and then walk up to the summit. He eventually was persuaded of the impracticalities of this approach and approached the climb in the traditional manner.

Utterly unqualified he wanted to climb in order to publicise his belief that fasting and having faith in God could solve the problems of the world. It took him months to actually get to the base of the mountain, because he didn't have permission to fly over Nepal. When he finally began to climb, he encountered problems on the glaciers, repeatedly getting lost. He reached 21,000 feet and then began to make a number of tentative ascents and descents before striking out for the summit. A year later his body was found.

Running a close second in eccentricity and ill preparedness has to be Earl Denmans attempt in 1947. Amazingly he persuaded the legendary Tenzing Norgay to accompany him. Denman was a self-styled explorer from Canada who had been living in Africa when he had come up with his grand plan for climbing Everest. It was actually no plan at all other than to give it a go.

It was 1947 and no one had been allowed near Everest in years, as a result of WWII and the closure of Tibet and Nepal. Travelling to Darjeeling with the barest of essentials and 250 Denman was introduced to Tenzing through a friend. Tenzing listened to Denman talk and was impressed by the mans enthusiasm and determination, even though he knew that it was a crazy idea. Denman did not have the money to pay him appropriately and if something was to happen to him there would be no compensation for his family as on the well-heeled British expeditions.

Beyond this, not only did Denman not have a permit to enter Tibet, he had signed a paper promising to not even go near the border. Denman was able to persuade Tenzing Norgay because he was bored and had not been able to work on Everest for 9 years and so he was eager to return for his fourth attempt on the mountain. Tenzing persuaded his friend Ang Dawa to accompany them.

They were nearly arrested by a Tibetan patrol despite, or perhaps because, Denman was disguised as a local. Travelling incognito and on occasion with the caravans of nomads the trio was able to quickly reach the Rongbuk Monastery by April 8 where they could finally rest. Using the Rongbuk monastery as a base camp they quickly moved up the glacier carrying immense loads, making single carries and setting up the next camp. Without the expensive clothing and equipment of the British expeditions the elements began to quickly drain them of strength and desire.

Denman's equipment was woefully inadequate and they suffered terribly from the cold. They reached the foot of the North Col but in a terribly weakened condition. The attempt ended when a strong storm at 22,000 ft pounded them. Denman also realized the hopeless nature of their situation and they began a rapid retreat. Five weeks after their departure they were back home in Darjeeling. Denman is forced to walk part of the way back to Darjeeling in bare feet after his boots wear out. Amazingly the whole 600-plus mile (1000 km) roundtrip from Darjeeling to Everest and back took only five weeks by foot.Denman left Tenzing a woollen balaclava and what was left of his meagre equipment and departed for Africa.


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