Before Vibram: Hobnail-Boot Ascents

The Great George Mallory.

When we cannot hike climb (mainly because of work and family), many of us enjoy reading stories of other explorers’ experiences.  Most of these stories tend to be about near-death or death experiences.  While climbing is inherently dangerous, it is actually about living. 

It seems the experiences of life and death in the mountains fascinates all of us.  We enjoy it with Gore Tex and fleece, and even that sometimes fails to keep us dry and warm at times.  Once upon a time, a legendary climber, who wore hobnail boots and climbed in various layers of wool (for warmth) and silk (for wind resistance) and his partner approached the top of Mount Everest and was never seen again. 

His body was not found until this past decade by American climber Conrad Anker.  He wrote an enjoyable short, enjoyable book with David Roberts and now National Geographic is releasing a documentary on Anker, who has parallels in his life to the life of George Leigh Mallory’s, and making an attempt on Everest with the equipment of the 1920s.  You can watch the of the trailor of the movie, The Wildest Dream, here.  It opens on August 6th. 

I have said before that the coverage of Everest gets a little silly and this is an example.  The mountain appears to get more media coverage in North America, at least, than any other peak aside from Mount Rainier.  I do not mean to diminish the climb or the effort; I have not climbed it and I do not intend to.  However, mountaineering is more than just ascending the highest peaks and being the first to reach the top (though sometimes I wish it was that simple).   That being said, this documentary will share with us, and possibly a new generation unfamilier with the suffering and sacrifice of early climbing, the magnitude of the challenge mankind faced, particularly in the Himalayas. 

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