On 29 May 1953, Hillary and Tenzing reached the summit of Mount Everest. The achievement brought fame and honours to many of those involved – but not to the man who made it possible, doctor and physiologist Griffith Pugh.
This new book by his daughter Harriet Tuckey sets the record straight, and incidentally provides the most interesting of the recent crop of Everest books.
Griffith Pugh’s research transformed climbers’ attitude to oxygen, clothing, equipment, fluid intake and acclimatisation. It made the 1953 Everest ascent possible and pointed the way to near-routine ascents of the world’s highest mountains.
Besides the insights it gives into the history of high-altitude mountaineering, Harriet Tuckey’s book offers a biographical portrait of an unusual and apparently rather difficult man. Harriet Tuckey did not get on well with her father.
But words of tribute to Pugh from Michael Ward – expedition doctor on the 1953 ascent – at a lecture in 1993 sowed the seeds of Tuckey’s interest. A BBC documentary, The Race For Everest, broadcast ten years later, made no mention of Griffith Pugh. That turned out to be the trigger that finally led Harriet Tuckey to start work on the book.
“Shines an entirely new light on the great expedition – a riveting read, full of surprises” (Sir Chris Bonington)
“The most important addition to the story of Everest.” (Doug Scott)
“Marvellously enjoyable and exciting…a credit to [Tuckey’s] industry and honesty.” (The Times)
“Harriet Tuckey’s gripping account finally establishes her father’s role as the difference between triumph and failure, and the man himself as the real hero of the expedition.” (Daily Mail)
“A vibrant, hard-hitting and very moving book, and a fascinating addition to the Everest story” (Spectator)
Everest – The First Ascent has been short-listed for the 2013 Boardman-Tasker Prize. The award presentation will take place on 15 November at the Kendal Mountain Festival.
A paperback edition is scheduled for release on 10 April 2014(4.5 / 5)