Blithely ignoring the criticism, Chantal forged on, joining eighteen expeditions in little more than ten years, but one mountain continued to elude her.
When Chantal was asked in June 1995 how she felt about Alison Hargreaves finally achieving on Everest what she had tried and failed to do many times, she brushed it off as an unimportant distinction, not a motivator for her climbing.
“I’m happy for her,” she told her brother François, “but I don’t see mountaineering the same way Alison does; I climb to experience more than just the mountain; I like to travel and share with the people.”
Three months later Alison was dead, and Chantal was asked by the mountaineering press to react.
“I admired her, but you see, we are different. For one thing, I am still climbing.”
Chantal Mauduit sounds like a deeply unpleasant person. So, whatever concerns I had about the author’s bias in favour of women climbers, it has been levelled.
And overall, there seem to have been a lot more men who did acknowledge the women’s achievements than the book first seems to indicate.
However, the tales of bullying, harassment, and downright exposing the women climbers to potentially fatal situations by some members of the climbing community simply because they felt women didn’t belong, made for a harrowing read. More harrowing even than the graphic details of death, dying, injury, and finding corpses.
I very glad I read this book as Jordan does give a great overview of the first women to scale K2 and in doing this she actually provides a broad picture of the climbing scene at the time(s), the efforts involved in the climbs, the development of climbing in the region, and much, much more.
I loved the description of the physiological impact that altitude – especially extended stays in the Death Zone – has on the climbers, even tho this made for extremely grim reading.
If there is a criticism that I do have, it is that the start of the book reads a little bit like an agenda-driven tirade at times that neglects to provide the other side of the story. However, over the course of the book Jordan does include descriptions of the feats and efforts of mountaineers of both sexes, multiple nationalities, and various states of celebrity that the focus actually shifts onto what I hoped the book to be about: the amazing and totally bonkers people that climb mountains.
What a fab book, tho. Thanks to Lillelara for the recommendation.