Isolation (Part 8)

Posted by Jeremy Windsor on Apr 03, 2020

Over the next few months we'll all be spending a lot more time indoors trying to limit the spread of COVID-19. We've been in touch with members of the mountain medicine community to ask them for suggestions on how they'll manage. Here's Jim Duff, GP and founder of IPPG, to tell us about his favourite book - The Shining Mountain by Pete Boardman...

Pete and I had shared a tent at Base Camp on our first major expedition, the South West Face of Mt Everest in 1975. Pete reached the summit, I carried loads. 

The next year saw us both attempting new routes on the same peak, Changabang the mountaineers’ mountain! Pete’s partner was chalk to his cheese in the form of the inscrutable hard man Joe Tasker. Together they broke the historic spell of huge siege expeditions with their semi alpine lightweight ascent. 

Pete’s account of their epic, which will have you sweating in your armchair, is beautifully intertwined with an account of the dynamics of their personal interaction. These young men were the best budding mountaineers in Britain and when you put the book down you will understand the accolade.

Our team of 7 had carted most of their gear out in a van while they flew out to join us at the road head. As we ran fixed rope up the huge sunlit rock wall of the south face, Pete and Joe tackled a significantly harder, colder west face. We ran out of time and swapped modes to climb an easier new ice route, the south east face with 4 bivvis, arriving on the summit 5 days before them. 

Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker - arguably one of the strongest pairs to have climbed at high altitude. Their friend Dick Renshaw once said of them, "they sometimes seemed like an old married couple"

Having shared Shivling’s summit, we were together again on an attempt on the unclimbed west ridge of K2 in 1978.

Pete gave me a dedicated copy when The Shining Mountain was published and it has followed me around the world. It won the John Llewellyn Rhys Literary Prize (and would have won the Boardman Tasker prize, except that...)*.

Pete died in 1982 on the unclimbed north east ridge of Everest. Many years later in Tokyo I got to talk to a Japanese mountaineer who had taken a photo of Pete’s body. I have to admit I wept.

Jim with his copy of “The Shining Mountain” by Pete Boardman

*Established in 1983 to commemorate the lives of Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker, the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature is awarded annually to the author or authors of the best literary work, "whether fiction, non fiction, drama or poetry, the central theme of which is concerned with the mountain environment". Further information can be found here.

Read Jim's thoughts on climate change in this fascinating interview.

Thanks Jim!

Part 9 of "Isolation" can be found here.

Please get in touch if you'd like to take part in other "Isolation" posts! 

Stay safe.

Have something to say? Comment on this post