In the 60 years since Everest was conquered, the fascination with the mountain doesn’t seem to have abated. This book tells the story of eleven men and women — not all of them summiteers — and their different roads to the top. The first of these, Mallory and Irvine, are the most mythic, because we don’t know if they ever actually got to the top, while Hillary and Norgay are the most heroic. Then there are oddballs like Junko Tabei who skied off Everest in 1970, Erik Weihenmayer, a blind wrestling coach, who summited in 2001.

The book feels incomplete because of what it leaves out — most notably the glorious 1930s, when English teams floundered on the north face of Everest repeatedly, but also inaugurated a new era of small-team mountaineering. The man who took this to its logical extreme, the great Reinhold Messner, does get a chapter though, a chronicle of his and Peter Haebler’s epic 1978 alpine-style ascent of Everest without any supplemental oxygen. The photographs are the true star of the book. The photos of Mallory skinny-dipping on the march, to John Noel and his survey equipment are delightful.

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