(K. Brent Tomer),
The Maverick Mountaineer: The Remarkable Life of George Ingle Finch: Climber, Scientist, Inventor. By Robert Wainwright. Allen & Unwin; 409 pages; £17.99.
PEOPLE are not made to survive at the top of Mount Everest. At 29,000 feet (8,840 metres) above sea level—just below a commercial jet’s cruising altitude—exposure to the elements can be lethal. Lucky climbers miss snowstorms, avalanches and crevasses. But one killer is inescapable: lack of oxygen. Atmospheric pressure at the summit is two-thirds less than at sea level. Breathing, sleeping and eating become nearly impossible; the body pumps more blood to the brain, often causing fatal swelling. Climbers call anything above 8,000 metres the “death zone”. For every 100 people who conquer Everest, four never return to base camp; more than 200 bodies lie amid the ice and rock.
Those who survive owe much to George Ingle Finch, an Australian chemist who used portable oxygen tanks on the second of three British expeditions to Everest in the 1920s. It was a time when climbers dined on quail and herring, and wore pyjamas under tweed….Continue reading