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"If you're only going to read one Everest book this decade, make it The Third Pole... a riveting adventure."--Outside Shivering, exhausted, gasping for oxygen, beyond doubt . . . A hundred-year mystery lured veteran climber Mark Synnott into an unlikely expedition up Mount Everest during the spring 2019 season that came to be known as "the Year Everest Broke." What he fou "If you're only going to read one Everest book this decade, make it The Third Pole... a riveting adventure."--Outside Shivering, exhausted, gasping for oxygen, beyond doubt . . . A hundred-year mystery lured veteran climber Mark Synnott into an unlikely expedition up Mount Everest during the spring 2019 season that came to be known as "the Year Everest Broke." What he found was a gripping human story of impassioned characters from around the globe and a mountain that will consume your soul--and your life--if you let it. The mystery? On June 8, 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine set out to stand on the roof of the world, where no one had stood before. They were last seen eight hundred feet shy of Everest's summit still "going strong" for the top. Could they have succeeded decades before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay? Irvine is believed to have carried a Kodak camera with him to record their attempt, but it, along with his body, had never been found. Did the frozen film in that camera have a photograph of Mallory and Irvine on the summit before they disappeared into the clouds, never to be seen again? Kodak says the film might still be viable. . . . Mark Synnott made his own ascent up the infamous North Face along with his friend Renan Ozturk, a filmmaker using drones higher than any had previously flown. Readers witness first-hand how Synnott's quest led him from oxygen-deprivation training to archives and museums in England, to Kathmandu, the Tibetan high plateau, and up the North Face into a massive storm. The infamous traffic jams of climbers at the very summit immediately resulted in tragic deaths. Sherpas revolted. Chinese officials turned on Synnott's team. An Indian woman miraculously crawled her way to frostbitten survival. Synnott himself went off the safety rope--one slip and no one would have been able to save him--committed to solving the mystery. Eleven climbers died on Everest that season, all of them mesmerized by an irresistible magic. The Third Pole is a rapidly accelerating ride to the limitless joy and horror of human obsession.


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"If you're only going to read one Everest book this decade, make it The Third Pole... a riveting adventure."--Outside Shivering, exhausted, gasping for oxygen, beyond doubt . . . A hundred-year mystery lured veteran climber Mark Synnott into an unlikely expedition up Mount Everest during the spring 2019 season that came to be known as "the Year Everest Broke." What he fou "If you're only going to read one Everest book this decade, make it The Third Pole... a riveting adventure."--Outside Shivering, exhausted, gasping for oxygen, beyond doubt . . . A hundred-year mystery lured veteran climber Mark Synnott into an unlikely expedition up Mount Everest during the spring 2019 season that came to be known as "the Year Everest Broke." What he found was a gripping human story of impassioned characters from around the globe and a mountain that will consume your soul--and your life--if you let it. The mystery? On June 8, 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine set out to stand on the roof of the world, where no one had stood before. They were last seen eight hundred feet shy of Everest's summit still "going strong" for the top. Could they have succeeded decades before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay? Irvine is believed to have carried a Kodak camera with him to record their attempt, but it, along with his body, had never been found. Did the frozen film in that camera have a photograph of Mallory and Irvine on the summit before they disappeared into the clouds, never to be seen again? Kodak says the film might still be viable. . . . Mark Synnott made his own ascent up the infamous North Face along with his friend Renan Ozturk, a filmmaker using drones higher than any had previously flown. Readers witness first-hand how Synnott's quest led him from oxygen-deprivation training to archives and museums in England, to Kathmandu, the Tibetan high plateau, and up the North Face into a massive storm. The infamous traffic jams of climbers at the very summit immediately resulted in tragic deaths. Sherpas revolted. Chinese officials turned on Synnott's team. An Indian woman miraculously crawled her way to frostbitten survival. Synnott himself went off the safety rope--one slip and no one would have been able to save him--committed to solving the mystery. Eleven climbers died on Everest that season, all of them mesmerized by an irresistible magic. The Third Pole is a rapidly accelerating ride to the limitless joy and horror of human obsession.

30 review for The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dax

    This book doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Initially the author seems to want to bill it as a quest to solve the Mallory/Irvine summit mystery, but that quickly falls by the wayside once the climbers succumb to summit fever. In reality, 'The Third Pole' gives the reader an idea of what it is like to attempt to climb Everest today. The most interesting part covers "the day that Everest broke" which took place in 2018 when a traffic jam of climbers, coupled with deteriorating weather, lead This book doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Initially the author seems to want to bill it as a quest to solve the Mallory/Irvine summit mystery, but that quickly falls by the wayside once the climbers succumb to summit fever. In reality, 'The Third Pole' gives the reader an idea of what it is like to attempt to climb Everest today. The most interesting part covers "the day that Everest broke" which took place in 2018 when a traffic jam of climbers, coupled with deteriorating weather, lead to a number of deaths. Synnott and his team were not attempting their summit that day, but he has gathered details of several climbing experiences that day that make for a harrowing read. The chapters on Mallory and Irvine's expedition are entertaining as well, but I am not sure it adds much from the well regarded 'Into the Silence'. I did enjoy the chapters covering the 1999 expedition that discovered Mallory's body though. As well as being an excellent climber, Synnott is a solid writer and the enjoyment factor with this book is high enough to warrant four stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Holli

    I did not expect to love this one so much but I actually stayed up late and woke up early to keep reading. This book feels like a perfect update/companion to Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" with its modern take on the mountain and the culture around it. I read "Into Thin Air" in college and ever since I have sneered at the idea of Everest and the people that pay $65k to "climb" it. That infamous conga line/traffic jam picture from March 2019 further confirmed that assessment. If you saw that pict I did not expect to love this one so much but I actually stayed up late and woke up early to keep reading. This book feels like a perfect update/companion to Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" with its modern take on the mountain and the culture around it. I read "Into Thin Air" in college and ever since I have sneered at the idea of Everest and the people that pay $65k to "climb" it. That infamous conga line/traffic jam picture from March 2019 further confirmed that assessment. If you saw that picture or read the think pieces about Everest I would encourage you to read this. Synnott takes the time to give context for why Everest became famous and why it continues to draw crowds despite its commercialization. But more than that he provides an honest, first-hand account of being on the mountain in 2019 with all it's politics and modernizations. The narrative swaps between recounting the 1924 expedition and the events that lead to Synott being part of an expedition whose goal was not to summit but to find the body of Sandy Irvine. I found both storylines compelling. Even if you are well acquainted with the story of Mallory and Irvine I think you would still enjoy this book for some of the new information and its insightful look at the 2019 season. Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the exploration of the question "why climb Everest?". Synnott doesn't seem to know the answer since he had never been obsessed with the highest peak. So he introduces us to other climbers, both past and present, and tells their stories. He brings us to Base Camp and Advanced Base Camp and shows us the people that populate it. He describes in vivid detail what it feels like to be in the shadow of the mountain and consider *not* trying to climb it. In the end, I think I understood a little bit of the obsession. I don't want to climb Everest and I still think those that do are a bit crazy but I have more sympathy for them now. I particularly enjoyed the section that tried to illuminate why so many people get left for dead on the route. I think that is probably the hardest thing to understand about the situation of Everest today. I still find it horrific and hope one day some of my friends read this book so we can talk about it... cause I have opinions! I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Payel Kundu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was kind of a flop for me for a couple of reasons. I typically like mountaineering adventure books, my favorite one is Buried in the Sky. But unlike that book, this book contributed very little new insight or perspective. There was the cool central story of Mallory and Irvine perhaps being the first to summit Everest, instead of Hillary and Norgay as is currently believed, but the resolution of that narrative line was so anticlimactic. Synnott gets to the spot where they previously det This book was kind of a flop for me for a couple of reasons. I typically like mountaineering adventure books, my favorite one is Buried in the Sky. But unlike that book, this book contributed very little new insight or perspective. There was the cool central story of Mallory and Irvine perhaps being the first to summit Everest, instead of Hillary and Norgay as is currently believed, but the resolution of that narrative line was so anticlimactic. Synnott gets to the spot where they previously determined Irvine’s body might lie and finds that it’s just a natural feature that sort of looks like a crevice with a body in it if you squint hard with lots of optimism at a low resolution photo taken from far away. He then becomes aware of rumors that Chinese climbers found the body ages ago and are covering it up to protect their first ascent up the North Face status. But it’s unclear from the writing why Synnott wasn’t aware of these rumors before. If they’re so compelling, why did he do the climb at all? Maybe if I had never read an Everest adventure book before this would be a fine book, but I didn’t find enough unique material to warrant a higher review. Additionally, Synnott’s writing is a bit clunky and amateurish. He describes a climber on Everest as “lost in her revelry” for example. He describes an imagined situation of Irvine hanging upside down near death contemplating his lost “wonderful human potential.” Also, Synnott goes to great pains to champion Sherpa climbers, in leading and in supporting capacities, but then says that a famous early explorer summitted alone, with only his Sherpas for company. Also, Synnott goes off rope to explore the potential Irvine body area in the face of vehement opposition from his guides. I understand why he did that, but the casually playful tone he uses to refer to the incident like “My support climber was real mad, but he’s cool, right bro? He’s totally over it” seemed dubious to me. In short, not my favorite mountaineering adventure book. There are better books on the topic available, unless you’re specifically interested in the potential Mallory and Irvine first ascent.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    The Day that Broke Everest is something you have undoubtedly seen a picture of – you know that photo of the line for the Summit. See, you know it. Synnott was there. He summitted the next day. This book is part story of those events and part a glimpse at the conjunction surrounding Malory and Irvine (who may or may not have submitted but most assuredly died on Everest. Malory’s body was found in 1999). In most cases, this would lead to a book that cannot decide what it what wants to be – conqu The Day that Broke Everest is something you have undoubtedly seen a picture of – you know that photo of the line for the Summit. See, you know it. Synnott was there. He summitted the next day. This book is part story of those events and part a glimpse at the conjunction surrounding Malory and Irvine (who may or may not have submitted but most assuredly died on Everest. Malory’s body was found in 1999). In most cases, this would lead to a book that cannot decide what it what wants to be – conquering the mountain story or mystery quest, and usually that is a bad thing. Yet, here, it works. In part this is because of Synnott’s writing. He has a grab you style. You want to keep reading. His history lectures are not boring. When he discusses the complication and complexities of morality in the death zone, he does it in such way that does more than lip service. The vim and vigor of the prose is more than enough to grab and hold the attention of the reader. You can feel and hear the wind. But it isn’t just Synnott’s writing style that balances out and makes up for a book that it doesn’t know quite what it wants to be. It’s the captivation of Everest and the desire for the Summit. Synnott starts out on his quest for Everest because he is captivated by the story of Malory and Irvine (and the book goes into the possible answers to the various questions about the fate of the men). Yet, slowly, the reader can see the idea of Everest itself take over. In some ways, the book is an almost brutal and yet somewhat unwittingly look at how an obsession can take over. How Synnott’s original quest plays out as the obsession goes is an integral part of the story. As are the other more complex moral questions – climbing permits, treatment of Sherpas for instance as well as the question of morality in the death zone – that Synnott leaves with the reader to examine because he is also part of those larger questions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    I finished this several days ago and cannot get it out of my mind. I found the history parts of the story to be fascinating and the modern parts to be very thought-provoking. Read the blurb--it is excellent. I picked this up because I am an armchair traveler; I really enjoy a well-written account that blends history in with explorations. The author's look at the modern business of climbing Mt Everest was a real eye-opener for me. A warning: a few of the photos are rather graphic (dead bodies). The I finished this several days ago and cannot get it out of my mind. I found the history parts of the story to be fascinating and the modern parts to be very thought-provoking. Read the blurb--it is excellent. I picked this up because I am an armchair traveler; I really enjoy a well-written account that blends history in with explorations. The author's look at the modern business of climbing Mt Everest was a real eye-opener for me. A warning: a few of the photos are rather graphic (dead bodies). There is also a very frank discussion on why the dead were left where they fell; as well as an examination of the dilemmas of aiding climbers in distress. A lot of food for thought; I certainly came away with several preconceptions destroyed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    William Lowe

    Mark Synnott's The Third Pole will transport you to Mount Everest during the 2019 climbing season as he searches for the remains of Sandy Irvine that may help prove the British summited Everest in the 1920s. Through extensive research from the original British Everest expedition as well as the 1960s China Expedition Mark set out to solve a mystery almost 100 years in the making. Mark shares with the reader not only his story but the story of people he meets along the way. Showing that there isn' Mark Synnott's The Third Pole will transport you to Mount Everest during the 2019 climbing season as he searches for the remains of Sandy Irvine that may help prove the British summited Everest in the 1920s. Through extensive research from the original British Everest expedition as well as the 1960s China Expedition Mark set out to solve a mystery almost 100 years in the making. Mark shares with the reader not only his story but the story of people he meets along the way. Showing that there isn't a single answer to the question, “Why are you climbing Mount Everest?”. The Third Pole is a thrilling book that really grabs the reader with the sense of adventure and danger. Before setting foot on the mountain you are on a treasure hunt while Mark uses modern technology to analyze the mountain to aid in the search for Sandy. By the end of the book I was drained and felt like I had been on Mount Everest myself. The Third Pole was hard to put down, you just didn’t know what was going to happen next once they were on Mount Everest.

  7. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    This was a very interesting book that deserves a solid 3.5 stars. It kept me interested and is probably about as "beach read" as I get (easy to read, lots of intrigue, long waiting list at the library). I had read Into Thin Air several years ago, and I agree with other commenters that this book makes a good "sequel" if you will. There are a lot of poignant discussions in this book that weighed on me, especially on the topic of humans dying, being left for dead, being walked around, being passed This was a very interesting book that deserves a solid 3.5 stars. It kept me interested and is probably about as "beach read" as I get (easy to read, lots of intrigue, long waiting list at the library). I had read Into Thin Air several years ago, and I agree with other commenters that this book makes a good "sequel" if you will. There are a lot of poignant discussions in this book that weighed on me, especially on the topic of humans dying, being left for dead, being walked around, being passed by, and then remaining on the mountain as corpses after they pass away. Wow. I thought about a lot of parallels with flying. We are trained to go through risk management checklists before flying. One of the indirect causes of many accidents and incidents in aviation is "get-there-itis." When pilots are so obsessed with getting to their destination that they fly through terrible weather, they don't think about other alternatives, and sometimes die as a result. I think a lot of the climbers who are so focused on the summit similarly suffer from "get-there-itis." Why this book doesn't get more stars is because of the narrative structure. Yes it was interesting, but I thought that EVERY chapter being: lead-up to something interesting -> completely change topics to explore something historical until you've completely forgotten the lead-up you just read -> pivot again and discuss the lead-up, whose resolution is invariably anti-climatic. It was really kind of an exhausting way to read a book and I literally rolled my eyes every time the author did it, which was often. By the end of the book, you're not surprised that the author and his expedition comes up empty-handed. (I mean, if they'd found the camera, those pictures for sure would have been in the glossy photo inset, right?) The whole expedition came off, to me, as an indulgence of a bunch of relatively well-off and well-connected white men.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily Schnabl

    Everest books are a guilty pleasure. This is one of the finest of the lot. A lot of detail but also reflection on ethical dilemmas and the pull of the mountain. I have had trouble concentrating during the pandemic but this gripped me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    The Third Pole is an absolutely captivating story of mystery, intrigue, and danger that offers a fresh perspective on one of the 20th century's biggest obsessions. There has been a lot of high-quality reporting of the extent of commercialization and packaging that has constrained exploratory potential and substantially reduced the technical rigor needed to climb the world's tallest peak, but Synnott's work here stands out in its thorough discussion of the political and social context of this com The Third Pole is an absolutely captivating story of mystery, intrigue, and danger that offers a fresh perspective on one of the 20th century's biggest obsessions. There has been a lot of high-quality reporting of the extent of commercialization and packaging that has constrained exploratory potential and substantially reduced the technical rigor needed to climb the world's tallest peak, but Synnott's work here stands out in its thorough discussion of the political and social context of this commercialization, the deep ties to colonialism, the ethical dilemmas of environmental conservation and the use of aids like supplemental oxygen, and the pinnacle of moral conundrums involved in the seemingly unavoidable question of whether to rescue another summiteer in distress or complete your own quest. I came for the mystery and stayed for the exceptional exposition on some of the biggest questions surrounding Mt. Everest expeditions today. Beginning as a mission with a whole host of moral superiority, Synnott and his team set out specifically not to summit (indeed, even pitching their expedition as "anti-Everest"), but strictly to locate the body of Sandy Irvine, one of two men widely believed to have summited Mt. Everest from the north in 1924, decades before the much better-documented success of the Chinese in 1960. While the body of Irvine's partner, George Mallory, was discovered in 1999, Irvine's had yet to be definitively located, although there was wide speculation about where it was likely to be found. Armed with a drone to scope out the area before they made the climb--getting the drone to fly at that altitude was itself a magnificent achievement--the team set out on a journey that was bound to significantly bend quite a few rules, if not outright break them. On their quest to the top, Synnott and his team encountered all of the usual hazards faced by the average summiteer: unfavorable weather, struggles with acclimatization, health effects from embolisms to sudden-onset neurological issues, and gear issues, aside from just pure exhaustion. But they also faced tremendous barriers specific to their unique goal, including Chinese spies embedded in their sherpa crew, political barriers to getting the drone into the country and operating it, and a full-blown disinformation campaign from the Chinese government resulting in a sherpa mutiny. What they did not have to contend with was the absolutely insane queueing that took place on Mt. Everest in the spring 2019 season and jeopardized dozens of lives from overcrowding alone. All because they gambled on the weather. The story of Mallory and Irvine is quite an interesting one itself, although it gets a bit lost in everything else going on in this book. Even though the team did not end up turning up Irvine's body, I felt a surprising lack of disappointment. The search was no longer the main feature, and there was so much other knowledge to be gained. In particular, I became incredibly invested in the story of Kam, an Indian woman who managed to summit, but was so slow that her team (including her climbing sherpa) left her behind for dead, and placed her descent in considerable jeopardy. Her story brought up all of the moral questions around the marketing of Everest expeditions that make all of the danger seem surmountable, the question of when it is right to stop and assist another climber and when all you are doing is putting yourself in jeopardy, and all of the trauma that comes with watching others die and coming so close to death yourself. And yet her story was just one of many that brought up all of these issues. I also did very much appreciate the consideration Synnott gave to descriptions of the pay disparities in American and local guides, the evolution of local outfitters and the socioeconomic context of how dramatically the balance has changed in the last ten years, and the true outsourcing of significant levels of risk to sherpas (that has been well-covered elsewhere in recent years as well). I also appreciated the level of mostly honest dialogue about how some of the decisions his team made had much greater repercussions for their sherpas than themselves. Overall, he's definitely still an American who thinks he should be able to do what he wants when he wants (and even overtly states that toward the end), but the weight given to the impact of these highly commercialized expeditions on the sherpas did surpass my expectations. In sum, The Third Pole is an engrossing read that I consumed in almost a single sitting, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a penchant for outdoor adventuring. Much thanks to NetGalley and Dutton for the eARC in exchange for the review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    4.5 stars. Absolutely riveting.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    I know that I am never going to climb Everest but this well researched and quite gripping book made the back of my head tingle a bit with a desire to experience it. Not. Synnott did this climb to find a camera -and perhaps the body- of Andrew Irvine, who, along with George Mallory, may have summited in 1924. He's detailed both men's lives, as well as what is known about their efforts, but what made this different and more valuable for me was the information about the region. He examines not just I know that I am never going to climb Everest but this well researched and quite gripping book made the back of my head tingle a bit with a desire to experience it. Not. Synnott did this climb to find a camera -and perhaps the body- of Andrew Irvine, who, along with George Mallory, may have summited in 1924. He's detailed both men's lives, as well as what is known about their efforts, but what made this different and more valuable for me was the information about the region. He examines not just the mountain but also the politics of the region. Best of all, the details about the climb, which was made during the infamous 2019 season. This is much more expansive than other books about climbing Everest and I learned a great deal. Synnott has a good way with building tension and his writing will pull you in and keep you turning the pages. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC, Armchair adventurers will love this one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lani

    This book made me angry from start to finish. A hundred years of people traumatizing themselves, their families, and importantly their native guides for what? This author showed little compassion for his guides when he not only insisted they continue despite expert opinions not to, but when they shared worries of being blacklisted for this expedition. He put both their lives and their livelihoods at risk and for what? They failed their mission and barely got out alive. There was no great discove This book made me angry from start to finish. A hundred years of people traumatizing themselves, their families, and importantly their native guides for what? This author showed little compassion for his guides when he not only insisted they continue despite expert opinions not to, but when they shared worries of being blacklisted for this expedition. He put both their lives and their livelihoods at risk and for what? They failed their mission and barely got out alive. There was no great discovery from this endeavor, just permanent injury, possible death, strain on multiple marriages, and a waste of seven figures investment.  No regard is shown for the guides, porters, and Sherpas exploited for the glory of rich people. No regard for the corpses littering the mountainside. At one point the author goes oh lol we can navigate by that dead guy over there. Everest climbers lose their grip on reality and humanity in exchange for their own pride. 

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Interesting and informative Not really on the same level as "Into Thin Air" but still a well written and interesting account about Everest's North Side routes, camps and history. Interesting and informative Not really on the same level as "Into Thin Air" but still a well written and interesting account about Everest's North Side routes, camps and history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    3.5 stars One of the great mysteries in the climbing world is whether or not Mallory & Irvine died on the way up or down Everest. In 1999, Mallory's body was found but no evidence could substantiate whether he'd made it to the top. Irvine still hasn't been found nor has the Kodak VPK camera which may have photographic proof. And having already read on the subject, I too am fascinated by the mystery. The writer (Synnott) joins an expedition to search the mountain to solve the mystery. And as they'r 3.5 stars One of the great mysteries in the climbing world is whether or not Mallory & Irvine died on the way up or down Everest. In 1999, Mallory's body was found but no evidence could substantiate whether he'd made it to the top. Irvine still hasn't been found nor has the Kodak VPK camera which may have photographic proof. And having already read on the subject, I too am fascinated by the mystery. The writer (Synnott) joins an expedition to search the mountain to solve the mystery. And as they're climbing the North Side (which is Tibet not Nepal) it means dealing w/China. I didn't know much about that so that was interesting. This book gives the history of the area, the early explorers, background on the team and the description of that expedition. They're also aiming to use drones for filming of images so as to help with the search. I thought it was an interesting use of technology. It was easy to tell that the writer had done extensive research and I thought he did a good job of reiterating concise details. (ie. thru other books cited, interviews, etc.) Once the team is on the mountain, you get caught up on the stories of the other climbers. I thought the writer did a great job of summing up the details/experiences of the people who either died or were injured during the climbing season. I'll have to admit with as much reading as I've done on the subject of various mountain climbs, I didn't know that area was referred to as "the third pole". (which is the reason for the title) So I learned about that. The only negative is that it was a long book which meant it's not easily read in one sitting. But it was still a fascinating subject & I've learned things I didn't know.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Peter Munger

    This is another book about mountaineers struggling to summit Mt Everest. The climb, via the North Face, took place in 2019. Author Mark Synnott was among the summiteers. What makes this book different and interesting, however, is the expedition had a secondary purpose – to locate the body or camera of Sandy Irvine, the young British adventurer who was lost near the summit of the mountain in 1924 along with his famous climbing partner, George Mallory, among the top mountaineers of his day. In 196 This is another book about mountaineers struggling to summit Mt Everest. The climb, via the North Face, took place in 2019. Author Mark Synnott was among the summiteers. What makes this book different and interesting, however, is the expedition had a secondary purpose – to locate the body or camera of Sandy Irvine, the young British adventurer who was lost near the summit of the mountain in 1924 along with his famous climbing partner, George Mallory, among the top mountaineers of his day. In 1960, the Chinese claimed to be the first to reach Mt Everest’s peak from the North Face, which is approached from Tibet, but lingering in mountaineering history is the question whether Irvine and Mallory were truly the first back in 1924. Mallory’s body was discovered in 1999, seventy-five years after he disappeared, but provided no final answer to the lingering question. Synnott hoped to locate Irvine’s body or the camera it is believed he carried and thereby add clarification to what happened on the mountain that fateful day in 1924, but he was unsuccessful. (Synnott mentions a rumor that the Chinese removed Irvine’s body, camera, and effects from the mountain years ago to undercut any argument that he and Mallory were the first to summit Mt Everest.) Still, one of the book’s strengths is the retelling of the Irvine and Mallory story in juxtaposition to Synnott’s own story of his climb. The back and forth offers a deeper context to both stories. I’ve read many books about Himalayan mountaineering, some good, some disappointing. This is a good one, well-written and engaging, even thrilling in parts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    Hoo boy what a ride! Weenie that I am, I've never understood why people climb mountains, especially the frozen beast that is Mt. Everest. After reading this book, the "why" is a little clearer, but the "how" is even more unfathomable. Synnott climbs Everest because he never has, but also as part of an expedition to find the body of Sandy Irvine, who vanished along with Mallory in Britain's 1924 attempt to be the first to scale that impossible height. We read about that journey, about subsequent Hoo boy what a ride! Weenie that I am, I've never understood why people climb mountains, especially the frozen beast that is Mt. Everest. After reading this book, the "why" is a little clearer, but the "how" is even more unfathomable. Synnott climbs Everest because he never has, but also as part of an expedition to find the body of Sandy Irvine, who vanished along with Mallory in Britain's 1924 attempt to be the first to scale that impossible height. We read about that journey, about subsequent ones, about the geopolitical hoo-ha surrounding current realities (China and Nepal limiting climbers and possibly concealing evidence), about the horrific nuts and bolts of these undertakings, about advances in gear, and most heartbreakingly, about the bodies stuck there forever. I was transfixed. Synnott has such a sure grasp of our attention, spooling out from today's attempt to the one in 1924 to the one in 1999 when Mallory's body was discovered. He's just as skillful in the asides -- his home life, the role drones might play, the glee with which he plunges into Irvine's papers and research in an English library. He is respectful but not obsequious, courageous without bragging about it, alternately conflicted then adamant. "The Third Pole" tells a mind-blowing story, absolutely, but also wrestles with the human condition.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    I'll read any book that gets anywhere near 29,000 feet. And lucky me, The Third Pole has a premise a notch above the average Mount Everest tale: Synnott is not just a climber looking to bag the summit; he's interested in solving the century-old mystery of whether Sandy Irvine and George Mallory (of "because it's there" celebrity) made it to the top before perishing in the Death Zone. The result is part dusty archival reconstruction of the 1920s Everest expeditions, part near-death-experience on I'll read any book that gets anywhere near 29,000 feet. And lucky me, The Third Pole has a premise a notch above the average Mount Everest tale: Synnott is not just a climber looking to bag the summit; he's interested in solving the century-old mystery of whether Sandy Irvine and George Mallory (of "because it's there" celebrity) made it to the top before perishing in the Death Zone. The result is part dusty archival reconstruction of the 1920s Everest expeditions, part near-death-experience on the North Face of Everest hunting down frozen corpses of the long-dead British climbers that might hold vital clues as to what preceded their fate. It's uneven, of course, torn between an investigation of the British attempts to summit and the author, a modern-day American man, making his own attempt. Synnott doesn't crack the narrative in a way that makes it an intoxicating read. There are too many asides and jumps in time. But for a captive audience such as me, I loved every word about the oxygen respirators; the cols and seracs; the endless medical emergencies and the tragic tales of woe. The ending is ambivalent in two regards—whether Mallory and Irvine summitted before their demise and whether most anyone should even be climbing Everest 100 years later—so a satisfying conclusion is not to be found. Yet it's a definitive portrait of the mountain that's claimed so much attention and so many lives. It's one of those Everest books that makes you never want to climb the peak while also burnishing that sense of wonder that can push you to ask yourself, "Maybe?"

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie (wife of book)

    My copy had an alternate subtitle: My Everest climb to find the truth about Mallory and Irvine. This is the first book I've read about mountineering but I caught the Everest bug after watching some films about the reality of climbing the tallest mountain in the world. This book is about many things, and sometimes the topic jumps can seem a bit random, but overall it's really interesting. Synnott talks about the drive that people have to get to the summit, the history of climbing, the story of Mall My copy had an alternate subtitle: My Everest climb to find the truth about Mallory and Irvine. This is the first book I've read about mountineering but I caught the Everest bug after watching some films about the reality of climbing the tallest mountain in the world. This book is about many things, and sometimes the topic jumps can seem a bit random, but overall it's really interesting. Synnott talks about the drive that people have to get to the summit, the history of climbing, the story of Mallory and Irvine's group, as well as what Everest is like today. Depressingly, lots of rubbish and lots of cheap guide packages which means pretty much anyone can give it a go. The story of the expedition in the 20's contrasts nicely with the author's contemporary assent a few years ago. It's interesting to read about the different style of climbing, the routes, and the tools. The investigation into what could have happened is an intruiging part of the book...it's sort of like a Franklin Expedition but on a mountain! Did they make the summit 30 years before the "first" people did? What went wrong? We'll never know but investigating it is intruiging. There's some boring sections that discuss drones, but this book is such a great read overall. The author really gets through the phycial and pschology damge that climbing this high can do to you. i thought the most interesting stat was that 70% of deaths happen on the way down. An excellent book to read if you want to learn more about this mountain.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    Interesting tale of the author's expedition to Everest ostensibly to search for the body of Sandy Irvine, climbing partner of George Mallory on their ill-fated 1924 ascent attempt. Presumed lost shortly after they had been seen not far from the summit, Mallory's body was discovered in 1999, but Irvine's remains were never seen again. The hope was that if Irvine were found, he might have exposed film in an old Kodak camera providing evidence that the team had, indeed, stood on Everest's summit. M Interesting tale of the author's expedition to Everest ostensibly to search for the body of Sandy Irvine, climbing partner of George Mallory on their ill-fated 1924 ascent attempt. Presumed lost shortly after they had been seen not far from the summit, Mallory's body was discovered in 1999, but Irvine's remains were never seen again. The hope was that if Irvine were found, he might have exposed film in an old Kodak camera providing evidence that the team had, indeed, stood on Everest's summit. Most of the book is about the history of Mallory & Irvine's attempts, and the planning for the search attempt, but quickly moves into a summit attempt by the search team, which nearly ends in disaster. Along the way, Synnott reveals the awful truth about climbing Everest, that while over 5,000 people have succeeded in reaching the summit and returning, the most dangerous part of the climb is the return from the peak, where about 5% of climbers in a good year die on the way down. Synnott provides a riveting first-hand account of what it's like to be one of those who return to tell their story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Audra Falk

    You won't find me climbing mountains, but I can't get enough of high-altitude adventure accounts. This book is an excellent overview of all things Everest. It is definitely not just about attempting to solve the mystery of Mallory and Irvine. There's lots of near-and-far history, along with more than a little political intrigue. The author raises all the usual questions of ethics and moral dilemma that go along with the commercialization of Everest, but he does so in a very balanced way that giv You won't find me climbing mountains, but I can't get enough of high-altitude adventure accounts. This book is an excellent overview of all things Everest. It is definitely not just about attempting to solve the mystery of Mallory and Irvine. There's lots of near-and-far history, along with more than a little political intrigue. The author raises all the usual questions of ethics and moral dilemma that go along with the commercialization of Everest, but he does so in a very balanced way that gives the reader multiple viewpoints to consider. Definitely not a fast read, but I still got through this book quickly because it was just so fascinating. This is the perfect book for someone who is interested in Everest but doesn't want to read 10 different books about the mountain. You get such a great overview here, and then an appendix that can easily lead you on to other books, depending on your specific interests.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Bulcao

    Fascinating!💜 While this isn’t my preferred genre it certainly opened my eyes to some historical events surrounding Mt. Everest. I tend to get a little lost when a story contains a lot of facts, dates & names, however I did become fascinated with the story and the journey that was told. The narration was really good! Especially for a story like this where there’s not a ton of dialogue. Steve’s got a smooth pleasant voice and did an excellent job in the telling of this story. I promise you this, I Fascinating!💜 While this isn’t my preferred genre it certainly opened my eyes to some historical events surrounding Mt. Everest. I tend to get a little lost when a story contains a lot of facts, dates & names, however I did become fascinated with the story and the journey that was told. The narration was really good! Especially for a story like this where there’s not a ton of dialogue. Steve’s got a smooth pleasant voice and did an excellent job in the telling of this story. I promise you this, I will never forget the terrible things that have happened or may continue to happen on Mt. Everest as well as the journey itself. I recommend this book! Sisters Spotlight 💜

  22. 5 out of 5

    Allison Thurman

    I have a weird fascination with Everest. I've never wanted to climb it myself. I have a visceral fear of heights, cold, and suffocating to death. I often find individual climber's obsessions with summiting selfish and stupid. Having said that, stories of people pushing themselves to the limits in extreme environments fascinate me, and I love a good historical mystery. The biggest Everest mystery of all is what became of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine in 1924: did they reach the top or not? And w I have a weird fascination with Everest. I've never wanted to climb it myself. I have a visceral fear of heights, cold, and suffocating to death. I often find individual climber's obsessions with summiting selfish and stupid. Having said that, stories of people pushing themselves to the limits in extreme environments fascinate me, and I love a good historical mystery. The biggest Everest mystery of all is what became of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine in 1924: did they reach the top or not? And what happened to their bodies? Mallory was found in 1999, but not the camera that might contain film that could prove whether they truly were the first to reach the top. The leader of that expedition, Thom Pollard, put together this 2019 expedition to find Irvine, and hopefully, the camera. I enjoyed the first half the most because it provides the historical context of the 1924 summit attempt and Synnot's research process. The most intriguing was an interview with Tom Holzel, a long-time Everest researcher who suggested he'd found the location of Irvine's body. This location was the focus of the expedition. Drones were used extensively for reconnaissance for the first time, and Synnott documents the problems and successes of this approach. The most provocative claim Synnott discovered in his research was (view spoiler)[the possibility that the Chinese retrieved Irvine's body and camera years ago and buried/destroyed the documentation because it proves the Chinese were not the first to summit from the North side. (hide spoiler)] Given the politicization of Everest climbing, we'll probably never know. So this book still compounds the mystery in a tantalizing way.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    Absolutely RIVETING 🙌🏻🎧 My heart was pounding the final 1 1/2 hours of this audio. Because this expedition was so recent(2019) and there were two quests, I was completely absorbed in both Mark’s personal story & the 1924 story of Sandy Irvine & George Mallory. Throughout this book, Mark shares other climbers fates which were equally compelling. Mark raises many moral questions & ethics about climbers, their sherpas, the government who issue permits and hold the “rights” to Everest, the expeditio Absolutely RIVETING 🙌🏻🎧 My heart was pounding the final 1 1/2 hours of this audio. Because this expedition was so recent(2019) and there were two quests, I was completely absorbed in both Mark’s personal story & the 1924 story of Sandy Irvine & George Mallory. Throughout this book, Mark shares other climbers fates which were equally compelling. Mark raises many moral questions & ethics about climbers, their sherpas, the government who issue permits and hold the “rights” to Everest, the expedition companies and their guides who profit greatly from these thrill seeking offerings and the new crop of inexperienced moneyed individuals looking at Everest as a bucket-list experience.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I can’t resist any book written about high- altitude mountaineering, and Mount Everest in particular, and this book is a great companion to others such as Into Thin Air and Into the Silence. Though the book jumps around a bit between history and the present, I appreciated both the deep dive into the history and mystery of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, as well as other Everest lore and that ever-present question, why climb this mountain? The author’s own personal summit bid is as exciting as t I can’t resist any book written about high- altitude mountaineering, and Mount Everest in particular, and this book is a great companion to others such as Into Thin Air and Into the Silence. Though the book jumps around a bit between history and the present, I appreciated both the deep dive into the history and mystery of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, as well as other Everest lore and that ever-present question, why climb this mountain? The author’s own personal summit bid is as exciting as they come, and I was on the edge of my seat to find out if he finally finds the body of Sandy Irvine. I’ll never not be fascinated by the way climbing Mount Everest stretches the limits of the worst and best in humanity and the questions it asks of ourselves. A great read for any armchair mountaineer.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    Im torn about this book - on the one hand it contains some interesting anecdotes, but it obviously suffers from the fact that the expedition doesnt solve the grand Irvine mystery. It leaves the book building to a climax that never comes. That said, I think Synnott salvages things to the extent possible.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to summit Mt. Everest in 1953…or was he? Presented with new information about a possible first ascent in 1924, the author makes his first trip to Mt. Everest to investigate. The body of Sandy Irvine, who attempted Mt. Everest in 1924 with George Mallory, has never been found. With him might lie a camera with proof they made it to the summit of Mt. Everest 29 years prior to Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Synnott writes a compelling story that combines the 2019 Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to summit Mt. Everest in 1953…or was he? Presented with new information about a possible first ascent in 1924, the author makes his first trip to Mt. Everest to investigate. The body of Sandy Irvine, who attempted Mt. Everest in 1924 with George Mallory, has never been found. With him might lie a camera with proof they made it to the summit of Mt. Everest 29 years prior to Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Synnott writes a compelling story that combines the 2019 season on Everest, historical attempts to climb Mt. Everest, and mountaineering culture as a whole. Although I personally enjoyed every aspect of the book, it is a long book and there are parts of the book where the lay reader may lose interest. For example, I had followed Cory Richards and Topo’s 2019 attempt at a never-before-climbed route, but the time spent discussing Richards’ troubled childhood seemed a little out of place in this book. All in all, I highly recommend The Third Pole for fans of mountain climbing or who want to know “Why climb Everest?”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Onceinabluemoon

    4.5, I have read numerous climbing books over my lifetime, always baffled how recreation can be so deadly but hotly pursued!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I couldn’t put this one down - so riveting. Alternates between telling the account of the team’s recent climb to search for Irvine’s body and the account of Mallory and Irvine’s ascent where they disappeared. The authored included numerous sections about the history of climbing Everest, training methods, political factors involved in climbing the mountain as well as background on the sherpas. It was so fascinating.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meag McKeron

    If you have any interest in Everest or mountaineering in general, this is a welcome addition to books on the topic. I found the history surrounding Mallory and Irvine to be particularly interesting, but of course the moments when the author describes his own experience on the mountain are often jaw-dropping/heart-stopping/nightmare-inducing (for me, anyway). For anyone who read Into Thin Air and is curious how Everest climbing culture has changed since then, this is a well-done modern take.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Franziska

    I’ve read many books about people who climbed/ wanted to climb Everest. But this book definitely stands out. Why? Mark Synnott is not your typical mountaineer who’s looking to stand on top of the world. Actually, climbing Everest has never been on his list. Instead, he was busy climbing big walls (Yosemite is his favorite playground). But then he heard about this project to go and look for Sandy Irvine’s body. You know, this Irvine who attempted to climb Everest in 1924 together with Mallory. Mal I’ve read many books about people who climbed/ wanted to climb Everest. But this book definitely stands out. Why? Mark Synnott is not your typical mountaineer who’s looking to stand on top of the world. Actually, climbing Everest has never been on his list. Instead, he was busy climbing big walls (Yosemite is his favorite playground). But then he heard about this project to go and look for Sandy Irvine’s body. You know, this Irvine who attempted to climb Everest in 1924 together with Mallory. Mallory’s body has been found a couple of years ago but it didn’t provide any answer to the big question: did they summit? It’s really a big question because it would mean that not Hillary and Norgay were the first who stood on top of the world (that was in 1953) but Mallory and Irvine who attempted to summit about 30 years earlier... Synnott knows how to tell a story. I’ve learnt many new things about climbing Everest in general (especially about how the Chinese government controls any movement on the north side of the mountain), about people who have lost their lives on the mountain and also about people who (some miraculously) survived their adventure. I’ve also learnt many new things about how the British tried to measure the world almost a 100 years ago, what their challenges were, which tools and clothes they used... It might sound a bit like a nerd story but I think the book tells about one of the great adventures and unsolved mysteries of recent history. Mark Synnott has done his research very well. He also spoke to many people who dedicate(d) a large part of their life to climbing the mountain or researching the history of the early climbs. Nevertheless, it’s a well written book, almost a page turner. Go, read it!

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