“What is extraordinary about this book is that it is not written by a mountaineer”. Roger Smith reviews this classic story of a four-man expedition to Haramosh.

This is a classic of mountaineering literature. Originally published in 1959, it tells the gripping story of a four-man expedition to Haramosh, a remote and then unclimbed mountain in the Karakoram. Three of the climbers – Bernard Jillott, John Emery and Rae Culburn – were from Oxford University. The fourth was an experienced Army mountaineer, Tony Streather.

Their time was limited and they were faced with a tight schedule in aiming to summitthe mountain. From the start, matters seemed to conspire against them. An extended monsoon season brought lengthy periods of bad weather during which little or no progress could be made; they faced constant difficulties finding routes through a major icefall area; and their Hunza porters were somewhat prone to mutiny.

Despite all this, the four men succeeded in pushing up to a previously unvisited ridge leading to the main peak of Haramosh. As they stood taking in the vista of virgin summits there was a loud ‘crack!’ and to the horror of Culburn and Streather, Jillott and Emery disappeared in a huge avalanche. Almost unbelievably, they survived but were seemingly trapped in a snow bowl a thousand feet down.The rest of the book is a totally gripping account of how the two stranded climbers were reached and almost rescued against massive odds. The narrative crackles along at a terrific pace, and the technical detail of their climbing efforts, minus vital equipment such as ice axes, is very well described.

Against all odds, and showing superhuman levels of endurance and suffering, Streather and Emery survived although Emery was badly frostbitten. Tony Streather went on to have a distinguished climbing career, leading a successful Army expedition to Everest in 1976. He died in 2018 aged 92.

What is extraordinary about this book is that it is not written by a mountaineer. RalphBarker was a professional writer with a wide output including many books on subjects as diverse as aviation and cricket. This is his only mountaineering book and the way he brings the whole story of the expedition vividly to life is almost uncanny.It all makes for great reading and Vertebrate are to be congratulated for bringing it back into print: a new generation of climbers and hillwalkers can now add it to their libraries