LFTOer Book Review: Tomaz Humar

Book Title: Tomaz Humar
Book Author: Bernadette McDonald
Book publisher: Hutchinson
ISBN: 978 0 091 795474
Price: �18.99

Reviewer: Paul Haigh (sheffieldpaul)
It could be argued the UK no longer has the Himalayan Mountaineering Superstars we used to have.

The golden era, I guess, started with the early exploration of the Himalaya and early summit attempts by the likes of Mallory and Erving, eventual success on Everest by Hunt�s team and peaked in the late 70s and early 80s with the likes of Bonnington, Scot, Haston, Rouse, Boardman, Tasker et al becoming household names, with bestselling books and regular appearances in the media.

Many of the great problems were solved by them but today, whilst we still have great climbers in the UK, do they have the public adoration those climbers experienced?
Perhaps the nationalities have just changed.

Tomaz Humar, the subject of this biography by Bernadette McDonald, is from Slovenia is certainly a modern superstar, he has learned to exploit new media - particularly in the internet to drive home the publicity sponsors need to finance his audacious ascents.

Humar is a very modern Himalayan mountaineer.

Fist ascents of the Himalayan giants were thought to be pushing what was possible at altitude and the likes of Bonnington devised huge logistical solutions with massive teams, tons of equipment and computers to manage flows of equipment all aimed at getting one pair on the summit.

Ethics have moved on, Messner broke new ground as did home ground talent like Venables all with Alfred Mummery�s �by fair means� quote ringing in their ears so that subsequent ascents have been �purer� without oxygen, on tougher routes such as faces not ridges, in winter, with less support, using smaller teams.

It�s a shame so many British climbers (or should I say adventurous travellers, plenty of real climbers are out there) just want to walk in the footsteps of pioneers from 60 years ago - not blaze their own trail in a new style.

We still have cutting edge pioneers, but none with the fame Humar courts.
Humar was at the pinnacle of this new style when he got stranded on the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat in 2005, climbing alone, with no oxygen, in terrible conditions as an on sight or  �ground up� ascent.

He had carved out a reputation for this style of ascent, well documented in this book and he certainly did the climbs in his own style, taking along a new media team to cover his climbs live on the internet and spiritual consultant to advise him on his chances based on his and the mountain�s auras - I don�t think Chris Bonnington ever did that, although they used to always ensure they were well sponsored by a Whisky distiller, so there may be some parallels in there somewhere when it comes to the more philosophical aspects of mountaineering!
As is a trend now in climbing literature but less well executed than in Kirkpatrick�s Psycho Vertical, this book tells the story of Tomaz�s life interspersed through an extended account of his ascent and subsequent rescue from Nanga Parbat, where it could be argued the rescuers were braver than the climber.

It�s a gripping read that brings the reader bang up to date with climbing in the Himalaya today, and if you�ve read the classics from the 70s and 80s don�t bother with today�s crop of �British celebrity climbs ancient route with ego-maniac professional guide� hauling themselves up fixed ropes and prepare yourself for the sweaty palms that come with finding out what today�s most inspirational mountaineers are climbing, seriously technical climbing out of the capabilities of most climbers at sea level, let alone altitude.

Humar was a product of a tough background, the Balkan war and a state funded heavily structured club system and you are left with many questions about why he did what he did, the effects on his family and what his real motivation was and most notably why did he attempt the Rupal Face in such poor conditions but, you are left in no doubt, that Tomaz�s environment spawned the perfect climbing machine.

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