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Dark Summit - The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season
(Random House Canada) ISBN 978-0307356420 0307356426

Nick Heil's book concentrates on the 2006 Everest climbing season with its unsurpassed number of tragedies. He describes the Everest climbing expeditions and provides reasons why many Everest climbers died in their pursuit of the ultimate mountain summit. He also discusses issues about poorly planned and supported expeditions, as well as under-equipped and inexperienced climbers.

This investigative essay reports the history of climbers attempting to conquer Mount Everest. Nick Heil concentrates his research and interviews on the two tragic deaths that continue to be debated.

Heil concludes that more needs to be done to respond to the risks that high altitude mountain climbers take. He criticizes people who moralize without understanding high altitude conditions.

Mount Everest map

Eighteen color photographs depict Mount Everest and some of its climbers. A drawing illustrates the Northeast Ridge access to the Everest summit. A black-and-white map shows the location of Mount Everest relative to China, Tibet, Nepal and India.

Dark Summit notes that increasing numbers of climbers have attempted to climb Everest since Sherpa guide Tensing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit in 1953. Each year, from 1970 to 2005, averaged five deaths per climbing season.

High-altitude climbing

Many unfit and inexperienced climbers were misled by companies selling $65,000 tickets to join groups climbing to the roof of the world. There were 15 deaths on Everest in 1996, eight on a single day.

Nick Heil relates how media and other climbers debate the feasibility of helping fellow climbers under impossible conditions. Above 8,500 meters altitude, it is extremely difficult for climbers to stay alive, let alone help someone else.

In 2006, 11 Everest climbers died. Two of the deaths involved other climbers who didn't help the victims.

The book lists the names of 2006 Everest North Side climbers and their Everest climbing teams: 7 Summits, Project Himalaya, SummitClimb, Asian Trekking Permit and Himex.

Base Camp

Nick Heil describes life at Everest Advanced Base Camp (ABC) as "high-altitude tenement housing" with crowded tents packed together on a ridge. He outlines the need for acclimatization to high altitudes, to adapt and compensate for the low oxygen environment, interspersed with techniques to overcome challenges.

Dark Summit features the backgrounds and stories of climbers like David Sharp, Lincoln Hall and Thomas Weber, guides like Sherpa Phurba Tashi and mountain climbing expedition organizers, such as Russell Brice, the CEO of Himalayan Experience (Himex).

Dark Summit


Partial list of Everest teams and climbers

Part I - David Sharp
  1. Kathmandu
  2. The North Side
  3. Base Camp: Tibet
  4. Advanced Base Camp
  5. The Northeast Ridge
Part II - Lincoln Hall and Thomas Weber
  1. High Camp
  2. The Second Step
  3. Dark Summit


Nick Heil

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