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Shelly's Book Journal

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Currently reading

The Civil War, Vol. 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian
Shelby Foote
Progress: 380/976 pages

Coming in May for Mt. Everest lovers: "The Last Hours on Everest" by Graham Hoyland

Last Hours on Everest: The gripping story of Mallory and Irvine’s fatal ascent - Graham Hoyland

Title:  Last Hours on Everest: The Gripping Story of Mallory and Irvine’s Fatal Accident

Author:  Graham Hoyland

Genre: NonFiction

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Available: May 21, 2013

Rating: 4 of 5 stars


Summary:  It’s one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century.  George Mallory and Sandy Irvine walked into the clouds of Mt. Everest on June 8, 1924 – never to return.  Were they the first to summit the historic mountain?  No one knows the truth for sure.  Graham Hoyland, whose family is tied to the famous climb, presents the evidence – the profiles of the team and details from 1924 along with modern day knowledge of Everest and his own personal experiences on the legendary mountain.  He surmises his findings – did they make it to the top?  But it’s more than a case study on the Mallory/Irvine climb.  It’s a discussion of the Everest Mystique from first hand experience (Hoyland was a BBC producer and worked on many documentaries on the mountain – including the expedition that found Mallory’s body in 1999.)


This book ended up being more than just another narrative on Mallory/Irvine.  The story is really more of a memoir of Hoyland’s experiences and later somewhat of an obsession with Mallory and Everest.  Events of his childhood and family connections to the 1924 expedition stirred the fascination with the topic.  In his adult life, he had the opportunity to do something with that – an opportunity most people don’t have.  So this is really his story – of his many expeditions, his analysis of successes and failures on the mountain, and his passionate pursuit of the missing camera that Mallory allegedly took on the climb that fateful day.


Hoyland wants the truth.  He wants the answer and leaves no stone unturned.  He goes beyond the “romantic notions” of what people want to believe to see what was possible.  Could they survive a day on the mountain in the clothes they were wearing with the weather that day?  What happened to Mallory on his fatal fall?  What about the missing picture of Mallory’s wife Ruth?  Did he place it at the top of the world?


Hoyland shares his findings, his love and his obsession for this story.  Readers who have explored this topic before may not find anything new in the story of the Mallory and Irvine, but they will see the expedition in new light under the lens of the author’s experience and experiments.


I really enjoyed the book.  While I’ve read many things on the Mallory/Irvine expedition, Hoyland’s explanations and interpretations give the story a unique perspective.  His vast experience on Mt. Everest with many different expeditions and under various weather conditions gives him an insight that others might not have.  He tears down the barriers in admitting his bias and fascination with this story.  Despite the title,  it’s not really Mallory and Irvine’s story.  It’s a story of discovery – and it’s Everest’s story of mystery.  It explores the gap between the legend and the truth.


Recommend for: Those who love adventure/travel stories and have had their own obsession with the mountain.


I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher.  All opinions expressed are my own.



Sandy Irvine (left) and George Mallory (right).