Sacred Summits

Kangchenjunga, the Carstensz Pyramid and Gauri Sankar

Author: Peter Boardman Sir Chris Bonington

Series title:

Paperback publication date: 04 Mar 2021

Paperback ISBN: 9781839810602

Following a remarkable year of climbing, Peter Boardman's last book Sacred Summits recounts his trips to the South Face of the Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea, Kangchenjunga and Gauri Sankar.

Mountaintops have long been seen as sacred places, home to gods and dreams. In one climbing year Peter Boardman visited three very different sacred mountains. He began in the New Year, on the South Face of the Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea. This shark’s fin of steep limestone walls and sweeping glaciers is the highest point between the Andes and the Himalaya, and one of the most inaccessible, rising above thick jungle inhabited by warring Stone Age tribes. During the spring Boardman was on more familiar, if hardly more reassuring, ground, making a four-man, oxygen-free attempt on the world’s third highest peak, Kangchenjunga. Hurricane-force winds beat back their first two bids on the unclimbed North Ridge, but they eventually stood within feet of the summit – leaving the final few yards untrodden in deference to the inhabiting deity. In October, he was back in the Himalaya and climbing the mountain most sacred to the Sherpas: the twin-summited Gauri Sankar. Renowned for its technical difficulty and spectacular profile, it is aptly dubbed the Eiger of the Himalaya and Boardman’s first ascent of the South Summit took a committing and gruelling twenty-three days. Three sacred mountains, three very different expeditions, all superbly captured by Boardman in Sacred Summits, his second book, first published shortly after his death in 1982. Combining the excitement of extreme climbing with acute observation of life in the mountains, this is an amusing, dramatic, poignant and thought-provoking book, amply fulfilling the promise of Boardman’s first title, The Shining Mountain, for which he won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1979.

Peter Boardman was born on Christmas Day in 1950 and became one of Britain’s most-respected high altitude mountaineers. He was a mountaineering instructor at Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms, and National Officer of the British Mountaineering Council before being appointed Director of the International School of Mountaineering in Leysin, Switzerland. He was part of Chris Bonington’s 1975 Everest expedition, made an almost impossibly difficult ascent of Changabang with Joe Tasker in 1976 and went on to climb Kangchenjunga and to attempt to summit K2, being beaten back by poor weather and exhaustion. Mount Kongur followed in 1981 and, in March 1982, in a small expedition with Chris Bonington, Joe Tasker and Dick Renshaw, he attempted the previously unclimbed and highly difficult North East Ridge of Everest, where he and Joe Tasker tragically lost their lives. Peter and Joe left two legacies. One was their great endeavour, their climbs on high peaks with bold, lightweight innovative methods, the second and more lasting achievement is the books they wrote and left behind. Peter's talent for writing emerged through his climbing career. The success of his first book The Shining Mountain was immediate in the climbing world and won him wider acclaim with the John Llewelyn Rhys Memorial Prize for literature in 1979. Sacred Summits, published shortly after his death, described the climbing year of 1979, the trips to New Guinea, Kangchenjunga and Gaurisankar. The Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature was established in Pete and Joes’ honour, and is presented annually to the author or co-authors of an original work which has made an outstanding contribution to mountain literature. For more information about the Boardman Tasker Prize, visit: www.boardmantasker.com

Born in 1934, Chris Bonington – mountaineer, writer, photographer and lecturer – started climbing at the age of sixteen in 1951. It has been his passion ever since. He made the first British ascent of the north face of the Eiger and led the expedition that made the first ascent of the south face of Annapurna, the biggest and most difficult climb in the Himalaya at the time. He went on to lead the expedition that made the first ascent of the south-west face of Everest in 1975, when Doug Scott and Dougal Haston became the first Britons to summit, and he reached the summit of Everest himself in 1985 with a Norwegian expedition. He has written seventeen books, fronted numerous television programmes and has lectured to the public and corporate audiences all over the world. He received a knighthood in 1996 for services to mountaineering, was president of the Council for National Parks for eight years, and is the non-executive chairman of Berghaus and a chancellor of Lancaster University.

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