In The Kingdom By: Ed Webster
by: Thomas Pollard May 23, 2001
the great numbers of books about the tragedy on
Everest in 1996 and the discovery of George
Leigh Mallory in 1999 you’d think that the
mountain was all about one thing: where people
go to die.
Contrary to popular belief, noteworthy
climbing still takes place there.
And, finally, an Everest book comes out
that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
new publication by Ed Webster entitled Snow
In The Kingdom, My Storm Years On Everest not
only chronicles one of Everest’s most significant
ascents, but it also blows a path straight to the top
of the ‘I’ll-write-a-book-as-therapy’ Everest accounts of recent
in the awe-inspiring oxygenless ascent of the Neverest
Buttress on Everest’s Kangshung face in 1988, Snow In The Kingdom is a drama of the first degree.
At over 500 pages, the book is loaded with
beautiful photographs, important historical
information, route diagrams, detailed indexes and
wonderfully written inspiring tales of courage, loss
most lasting impression of Snow
In The Kingdom is Ed Webster’s brutally
honest insight into the difficult lessons he has
learned as a climber. Beginning with the tragic loss of his girlfriend, Lauren
Husted, in a climbing accident in Colorado, Webster
evokes a sense of catharsis in writing about his
innermost fears and losses.
Every climber can relate to the end-of-day
shortcuts taken after a day on the crags, walking
unroped over easy, but treacherous terrain.
Little did Ed Webster know that one such act
would result in the life-defining accident that
claimed Husted’s life.
more than a climbing book, Snow In The Kingdom,
My Storm Years On Everest is
about the making of a man.
While the climbing accident with his girlfriend
has undoubtedly ripped something from his soul,
Webster turns to Everest as the forum for
rediscovering that which has been taken away.
The reader becomes the fortunate beneficiary.
talented rock climber who put up many fine routes in
Colorado and New Hampshire, Ed Webster kept to his hard-way-to-the-top credo on Everest, too.
His first taste of Everest took place in 1985
on a West Ridge expedition, headed up by big wall
climber Jim Bridwell.
Bogged down by large numbers and cumbersome
motorized hauling equipment, the expedition ended far
from the top. But,
the mere taste of Everest was enough to keep Webster
coming back for more.
1986 he returned, working as the photographer of a
solo attempt of the north face by Brit Roger Marshall
(Marshall was killed during a later attempt on the
Super Couloir in 1987).
It was on this expedition that Webster earns
his wings as a true Himalayan mountaineer.
He solo pioneered a new route on 24,879 foot
Changtse, Everest’s north peak.
The stage had now been set for the ultimate
after the ’86 expedition, Webster accepts an
invitation to join a small team on an oxygenless
attempt of the eastern Kangshung Face of Everest.
Echoing in the minds of the four team members
(Stephen Venables, Robert Anderson, Paul Teare and Ed
Webster) must have been K2 pioneer Charles Houston’s
remarks about the team’s intentions:
against the Kangshung Face?
Go and climb a smaller mountain!”
making the top was the least of their worries.
The four approached the mountain resigned to
the distinct possibility of never coming back.
through luck or sheer stubborn tenacity, the carefully
detailed account of the 1988 expedition proves that
the ascent of Everest’s Neverest
Buttress and ultimate summit success by Stephen
Venables was nothing short of a miracle.
Webster’s easy style of writing leads the
unwitting reader within a few steps of death:
thunderous avalanches down Big
Al gully; under an ominous serac called the Greyhound
Bus; through a gaping crevasse called the Jaws
most climbers would turn and run after one look from
Base Camp, Webster and his team pushes farther and
farther up the route, gaining confidence with each
small success. Through setbacks and near disasters,
Webster guides the reader into his bird’s eye view
of death. He
conveys precisely the feeling of helplessness a
climber experiences while in the grasp of a Himalayan
into the final do-or-die
summit push I found it impossible to put the book
four climbers, despite differences in style and
climbing speeds, had gelled into a world-class, highly
effective team. After
weeks of inching up the Kangshung Face, their effort
and persistence finally paid off.
On May 10, 1988 they became the first
mountaineers to reach the South Col from Tibet. Webster describes their arrival:
subzero wasteland of snow, ice, and rock was being
raked by hurricane-strength jet stream winds.
Terrific snow plumes streamed from the summits
of Everest and Lhotse, while pummeling gusts tore at
my clothing and face.
At first I attempted to comprehend the
hauntingly bleak desolation, remote as outer space;
then, after taking two faltering steps, I doubled
lungs heaved and fought for even the smallest volume
of life-giving oxygen.
I was suffocating for several seconds, and
thinking I was dying, mortal panic speared into my
pulled and rasped as much air down my throat as each
true climax of the book comes fittingly toward the end
as the three remaining climbers embark upon a summit
push that would become the epic of their lives (Paul
Teare retreated safely to Base Camp after falling sick
at the South Col).
Before leaving for the summit Webster recounts
a vivid dream of his deceased girlfriend, Lauren
he reveals the contents of his innermost sanctum, as
if preparing for the fight of his life.
Lauren’s memory had driven him to push
his dream, she had been carried “down a long
river”, which Webster interpreted to mean Lauren had
met her destiny.
Looking up at the summit from the frigid South
Col, it was now Ed Webster’s time to meet his own
the book were to begin at this point it would still
stand as one of the finest mountaineering accounts I
can remember. Webster
dramatically describes his ascent to 28,700 feet and
ultimate bivouac there at the edge of death.
I felt like I was with him, experiencing his
hallucinations and lapses into unconsciousness.
the gripping account of their fight for survival is
enough to bring praise to the book, Snow
In The Kingdom offers the reader much, much more. Webster uses the book as an opportunity to expose the dismal
reality of a Chinese occupied Tibet, relate his
affinity to Buddhist ideals and morality and give
credit to the Sherpas and teammates who made his
experiences so formative.
one serendipitous event during the trek to Base Camp
in 1988, Webster accompanies one of his team Sherpas,
Norbu Tenzing Norgay, through a village in Tibet.
The village turns out to be the childhood home
of Norbu’s father, the legendary Tenzing Norgay.
Met by relatives and family acquaintances of
Tenzing’s, Norbu has discovered the actual childhood
home of his father (who originally claimed to have
been born in Nepal).
During that same visit, it was also learned
that George Leigh Mallory himself had passed through
Tenzing’s childhood village during his expedition in
1921, when Tenzing was only nine years old.
Could it be that Tenzing and Mallory, two of
Everest’s greatest pioneers, actually met
In The Kingdom, My Storm Years On Everest,
while a great read all around, is a must for any
one wishing to look courage square in the eye.
Surely, the 1988 expedition took its toll
Having spent years in recovery for lost
fingertips and toes, Webster still deals with
the lasting physical consequences of the
so, while Snow
In The Kingdom may share a shelf with books that
explore death on Everest, Webster’s book will leave
the reader knowing that Everest, on the contrary, is a
place where many people go to live.
it now ! Snow
in the Kingdom : My Storm Years on Everest
by Ed Webster
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