Sunday 14 June 2015

Book Review: High Exposure by David Breashears

Those of you less initiated in rock-climbing or mountaineering may have heard of David Breashers for his cinematography as he is the recipient of four Emmy awards including the IMAX movie Everest (An IMAX movie is a 65 mm movie compared to a 35 mm movie that you usually see in a theatre – in other words it is 80 feet in length and 6 storeys high!).

High Exposure by David Breashears

He has also been part of the team making the famous movie Cliffhanger (starring Sylvester Stallone) which has substantial climbing scenes. His cinematography experience was enhanced in the company of the famous mountaineer and cinematographer Kurt Diemberger (of the award winning book The Endless Knot: a gripping narrative of the the 1986 K2 saga) on the Kangshung Face of Everest in 1981.

Like most western climbers, Breashears started rock-climbing first in his country America and then graduated to mountaineering in the Himalayas. He has been an advocate of free climbing (not using artificial tools like pitons and using rope only to save a fall) in rock-climbing though in mountaineering he has mainly used siege-style climbing compared to the alpine-style. He has been to the summit of Everest four times. The book High Exposure takes us through his journey from his troubled childhood (with an abusive father) to maiden first climbs on the rocks in Colorado. Like most famous mountaineers his married life was also not very successful as he spent more time on the rock and mountains then at home.

From the famous mountaineer George Mallory onward the question remains: Why Climb? For Breashears it is not about the high risk of dangers but about pursuit of excellence and self-knowledge. Danger comes when reason is blinded with ambition.

David Breashears IMAX team was there on the fateful May 10, 1996 when several mountaineers perished on the mountain above camp IV due to various factors like overcrowding, inexperience and client-based commercial climbing. Last three chapters of the book take us through that time and space. Now this is the third book after Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Anatoli Boukareev’s The Climb that I have read where the May 10 disaster has been discussed in detail. Jon Krakauer and David Breashears have, I think, wrongly blamed Anatoli Boukareev being too ambitious for climbing Everest without supplemental oxygen. In fact Boukareev was the hero in rescuing several climbers when he himself was extremely tired and so high on the mountain you are not supposed to be hand-holding others for the summit bid. In today’s commercial world even novices are being taken and guaranteed the summit by companies without considering the perils of the mountain.

A must read book for all rock-climbers, mountaineers, adventure lovers and film buffs.

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