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One Man’s Everest - Kenton Cool

24th Nov 2015

One Man’s Everest 
Kenton Cool
Review by Sam Schofield

One Man’s Everest is a book of adventures woven into a bright, entertaining and inspiring tapestry of a mountaineering career. The tapestry’s owner and author of this autobiography of expeditions is Kenton Cool, a man defined by his 11 summits of the world’s tallest mountain.

“Kenton Cool is without doubt the most formidable mountaineer of his generation.” Sir Ranulph Fiennes

The book’s title is symbolic of a series of adventures faced and overcome by the irrepressible Cool. After completing one, there was always another Everest to conquer – another mountain to climb or route to take. Even Everest itself is not the climax of the book, only a third of it, being one of three mountains in the great Himalayan Triple Crown, along with Nuptse and Lhotse, which Cool completed in a single push in 2013.

Nor is the Triple Crown likely to be Cool’s crowning glory, as his burning fire to leave a legacy in the mountains continues, although even he admits his previously raging furnace of motivation to drop everything for another adventure has died down to a smoulder. 

The book’s epilogue explains the priority reassessing affect of a young family waiting for him at home but this isn’t concluded without the announcement of another challenge: to link the three highest mountains in the world in a single climbing season. Cool’s dream: to summit Everest, K2 and Kanchenjunga within three months, including a 2,800 mile drive to link them all.

Each challenge and expedition dwarfs the last in terms of grandiosity but each takes the same level of dedication and passion to complete. His early ill-planned and ill-equipped excursions into the Alps were as epic if not more so than his later expedition leading tours of the Himalayas. Seemingly with unlimited motivation and enthusiasm, Cool launched into climbing with the determination of someone who found their life’s purpose and had no intention of letting it slip away.

A self-proclaimed “yes man”, Cool began his early mountaineering career by accepting any challenge and invitation thrown his way. After learning the ropes through multi-pitch trad climbing, he leapt at the opportunity to start exploring the world’s mountains, which ultimately led him to the tallest of them all.

A pair of broken heel bones, following a 14ft fall from a slate E5 called Major Headstress, barely slowed down the young Cool. It wasn’t long before he was hobbling, dragging and crutching his way out into the wilderness to climb again. This innate fight carried Cool back to climbing fitness in his early twenties and later to the top of the final climb in the Triple Crown, Lhoste, in his late thirties, following a harrowing incident that nearly derailed the world first achievement.

One Man’s Everest reads exactly as Cool delivers his energetic talks. He writes with the same passion you see when he’s on stage, in front of a projector, animatedly telling his stories. The book packs a lot of adventures into 212 pages and shows how Cool takes a love of climbing and turns it into a career, a life, without compromising on his ambitions or principles – even when called into question by others.

It is a shame the book ends in an epilogue largely spent justifying his choices and achievements, presumably to those who called them into question, or possibly to himself. These encompass balancing family life with a mountaineering career, switching from dirt bag climber to well-paid mountain guide, or having never summited Everest without supplemental oxygen, but this is the book’s only negative turn. 

On occasion there is a glimpse of Cool quelling demons or attempting to mute the naysayers but his immutably positive and passionate outlook eclipses this, making the book a celebration of high-altitude mountaineering as opposed to a harrowing telling of tortuous effort.

One Man’s Everest is a thoroughly entertaining and rousing read. It is as inspiring as Cool’s career is impressive.