The Other Side of Everest

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In 1996 Matt Dickinson was chosen by Britain’s Channel 4 to film actor Brian Blessed’s attempt to conquer 29,028-foot Mount Everest. Dickinson had been involved in many previous challenging adventures but was a rank novice in the mountaineering world, and, aware of his limitations, was less committed to getting to the top of Everest himself than in making a rewarding film. In addition, facing both personal and career decisions, Dickinson hoped that his Everest experience might give his life a new direction.

There were other climbing parties that spring. On May 10th Dickinson’s group was camped at over 21,000 feet on the difficult North Face, and although the early morning weather seemed ideal, the group’s leaders were wary of attempting any ascent on that day. It was a fortunate decision, one that not every party made. A killer storm descended, the temperature dropped precipitously to forty degrees below zero among raging winds, and twelve climbers died. One of the survivors was Jon Krakauer, who later wrote the best seller, Into Thin Air (1997).

After the storm receded, Dickinson’s group resumed the climb, dividing into two parties for the final assault. Blessed had turned back, but Dickinson was one of five climbers who reached the top. He wasn’t the most experienced, but with the aid of the other climbers, including the invaluable Sherpas, his own determination, and of course luck, he achieved the summit, one of only 700 or so to get to the “Top of the World.” However, after his feat, Dickinson found it did not resolve the difficulties with his career or family. The Other Side of Everest is a fascinating tale and a marvelous read.