Since it was first climbed, Everest has generated a mountain of books that would take a determined character, backed by a team of hardy librarians, to conquer. From the first flurry by expedition members – John Hunt’s The Ascent of Everest (1953); Wilfrid Noyce’s South Col: One Man’s Adventure on the Ascent of Everest 1953 (1954); Edmund Hillary’s High Adventure (1955) and their embedded Times reporter Jan Morris’s Coronation Everest (1958) – to the current blizzard of books, what all have sought to do in their way is make sense of the achievement: why it matters, what it says about those who took part and what it means to the rest of us. Everest has long been a very British obsession. The deaths of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine near the top in 1924 had only made it more so: there was a corner of a foreign mountain that was forever England. As Wade Davis explored in Into the Silence (2011), his Samuel Johnson Prize-winning account of the expeditions of the early 1920s, those years saw climbers with a very militaristic mindset – an outlook born of their experiences in the trenches – attempt to conquer the mountain.

more from Carl Wilkinson at the FT here.