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Publisher's Summary

In early May 2006, a young British climber named David Sharp lay dying near the top of Mount Everest while forty other climbers walked past him on their way to the summit. A week later, Lincoln Hall, a seasoned Australian climber, was left for dead near the same spot. Hall's death was reported around the world, but the next day he was found alive after spending the night on the upper mountain with no food and no shelter.

If David Sharp's death was shocking, it was not singular: despite unusually good weather, ten others died attempting to reach the summit that year.

In this meticulous inquiry into what went wrong, Nick Heil tells the full story of the deadliest year on Everest since the infamous season of 1996. He introduces Russell Brice, the outfitter who has done more than anyone to provide access to the summit via the mountain's north side---and who some believe was partially responsible for Sharp's death. As more climbers attempt the summit each year, Heil shows how increasingly risky expeditions and unscrupulous outfitters threaten to turn Everest into a deadly circus.

Written by an experienced climber and outdoor writer, Dark Summit is both a riveting account of a notorious climbing season and a troubling investigation into whether the pursuit of the ultimate mountaineering prize has spiraled out of control.

©2008 Nick Heil (P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Here is humanity itself, personified in exemplary fashion by Nick Heil, addressing the Everest culture's lack of compassion and coming up with the right answers." (Bob Shacochis, author of The Immaculate Invasion)
Through rock-solid reporting and vital prose, Heil leads us up into this rarefied world, step by hypoxic step." (Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers)

What listeners say about Dark Summit

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Good summary of the 2006 season

I liked this book, and thought it to be a good summary of the issues & controversies of the 2006 Everest expeditions. The author does a good job of helping you to understand the challenges that climbers face, and the growing problem that commercialization is creating -- that is, drawing people who have the money to attend an expedition but not the training, experience and mindset of what is needed to conquer Everest. It seems that Everest is drawing unqualified people for the purpose of achieving a personal goal, having "bragging rights" or ego. And although many train for months to develop the physical stamina, the lack of experience -- and also common sense due to the high altitude -- is sometimes fatal.

In the end, the author helps you to understand the perspectives of the clients and the expeditions leaders. And then there's the mountain itself. Make no mistake, it's not a game or fun recreational activity. Anyone who travels to Everest should consider the very real possibility that you may not return, no matter how well you think you are prepared.

Note that there is some language in a few places throughout the work. It's not excessive, but be prepared for it.

Also, I thought the narrator did a good job as well.

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating & Chilling (no pun intended)

STORY ( true) - Dark Summit is the story of those who risk their lives to climb to the "Roof of the World." It begins with a history of Mt. Everest and then moves to the controversial 2006 season, which claimed more deaths than any previous season. The book covers multiple expeditions with climbers from all over the world. It's often difficult to remember who's who, but it doesn't detract from the story.

These people climb dangerous icy slopes at temps of 50 below zero with high winds and low visibility. Often they are trapped on the mountain for days while waiting for a storm to pass and then must make their way down the mountain starving, dehydrated and numb. They are outfitted in space-type suits for warmth and must wear masks to provide supplemental oxygen -- but only a small amount that can be carried without difficulty. Even with proper rationing of oxygen, it's usually not enough, and low oxygen levels make each step extremely laborious. Most climbers' brains are barely functional, yet they are making life-and-death decisions that affect themselves and others. Many suffer from cerebral and pulmonary edema, frostbite and snowblindness. You will hear of the increasing number of climbers with handicaps or little experience who flounder and cause bottlenecks on the mountain, as others freeze while waiting for their turn to pass through an area. You will hear an account of one man who froze to death as other climbers simply passed him by on their way to the summit. Another was left dying but managed somehow to survive. The author discusses whether this is due to lack of compassion or selfish ambition of other climbers. He also tells stories of heroic and successful rescues.

Why are so many people attracted to Everest? How has it become so commercialized? After all, the cost for all this fun is up to $100,000 per person. And the payoff? If they are lucky enough to stay alive and if they time their "summit push" perfectly, they will enjoy a few brief minutes at the top of the world before survival demands that they start back down the mountain. All I can say is "Wow."

PERFORMANCE - Good job, but not a difficult performance.

OVERALL - Recommended for anyone who thinks this topic sounds interesting. Some F-words in tense situations.

STRANGE COINCIDENCE: I was listening to this on 4-18-14 when an avalanche claimed the lives of 13 sherpas, the worst single day in the history of Mt. Everest.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating Listen

The author writes a thorough, unbiased account of the 2006 ascent on Everest. For those who have read about the 1996 tragedies on Everest, you will be interested in how the 2006 year proved so deadly, even though there were no major weather obstacles to overcome. The author does a fine job of balancing the description of the climb, along with the background information of what goes into a climb, with the intense drama of human peril during the descent. As I listened to the book, I had many questions that the author addressed, including how to reduce the number of deaths on the mountain. But one question, that the author couldn't answer, is what I would do in that situation? Powerful moral questions are presented and, as much as you think you would do the "right thing," the author makes it clear that, in most cases, there is no one "right thing" that can be done. The ethical dilemmas are haunting for the reader and much more so for the actual climbers. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

The narrator also does a superb job, including spot on accents. Between the author's writing style and the narrator's accents, I had no trouble keeping the long list of characters straight, which is sometimes a challenge for me with audiobooks.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Best recounting of the 2006 Everest season

After reading Jon Krakauer's classic account of the 1996 Everest climbing season, I was hooked on all things Everest.

After watching both seasons of Everest: Beyond the Limit, I wanted a book that would explore the tragedies of the 2006 season and I found it in Dark Summit.

The book is well-written and evenhanded; it gives coverage to ExplorersWeb and Russell Brice's point of view.

Someone looking for a straightforward recounting of this tragic season should seriously consider this book.

The narration by David Drummond is spot-on perfect. Great voice, great timing and consistent accents give voice to all the major players in the book.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

An amazing story

I heard about this book while listening to the podcast "Macbreak Weekly" and am very glad that I listened. Prior to hearing this I knew nothing about mountain climbing or the history of Mount Everest for that matter.

The book is very well read and I did not find that the book dragged at any point. I would have liked a little more information on a few of the climbers, but that is a very minor complaint. I highly recommend this book and especially if you are like me who knew nothing of it before hand.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A Changed Opinion

By the time of this writing, I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it. When I first began to listen, I was distracted by what I perceived as a mismatch between the styles of narration and text. The narrator enunciates each word clearly with what I would call 'brisk' emphasis on syllables and words. This style, when combined with the detailed information and factual background given by the author, gave me the sense that I was listening to a textbook. Thus, when the author used descriptive phrases, the use of adjectives seemed superfluous and 'flowery' when read in the brisk style of the narrator. In fact, I wasn't sure that I would continue to listen, as I had just spent new credits and was looking forward to new books. The longer I listened, however, the less distracted I was. I found myself engaged in the story, appreciating the talents of the narrator, particularly in the accents and voices he brought to the characters. I have since listened twice, and am glad that I did so. I believe that my initial reaction was simply due to the fact that the last few books to which I listened had narrators with different intonation and emphasis on words, and that I simply needed to relax and appreciate the unique talents of this narrator.

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Into Dark Summit?

this book was very similar to into thin Air by John krakauer. I enjoyed the character development immensely. I thought Nick Heil did a great job. and of the 4 books I've listened to recently about climbing this was my favorite (into thin air, The Climb, No Shortcut to the Top).

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Must Read for Mountaineering Fans

This is my third mountaineering book. I can't put them down. I read this after reading Into Thin Air and The Climb. Although I liked The Climb the best (I.T.A. 2nd), this was still very enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book

Great detail the narrAtor was easy to listen to
As a non fiction. Book offered a neutral and detailed perspective

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

You could just watch the Discovery series

I got this as part of the Everest Rabbit hole I fell into & it's the worst of the bunch. I had already seen the series from Discovery & this is almost a narrating of the show---- I would not have bought this if I knew it was going to be a book that rehashes -word for word-the TV show. There's some other stuff in it and some behind the scenes, but mostly I just felt like I was reading the 'screenplay' of the show. Since it's written like a summary and not a personal account---a summary with some obvious favorite characters, there's nothing much more gained from reading this if you've seen the series.

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  • Rose
  • 02-11-19

Utterly full of journo speak

Well the boook is interesting enough if you want every mind numbing detail about the climbers and their background. If you want to learn about mountaineering though stop after the prologue. it gets boring after that. it reads like a journalistic piece cum documentary full of ‘he said’ and ‘she recalled’ stuff like that. The naration isn’t bad onsidering the mterial he has to work with but the whole book makes mountaineering sound like the kind of thing you could do if you were in a wheelchair as long as you have thee cash to pay for it that is, it cheapens the sport if such a word might apply but then commerce does that anyway i guess. Not good for the purist I’m afraid.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-06-19

Good in parts

Hard to follow in places as an audio book but informative and interesting read .

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dekard
  • 09-09-21

Great listen

Brought home just how challenging, uncomfortable and dangerous scaling Everest is. This served to confirm my total respect for those who achieve the summit, and all my views on why I'd never consider attempting it!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-02-21

Too dry and emotionless

After reading Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, a book that got me interested in reading and watching more content about Everest, I stumbled upon this book. I knew about the case of David Sharp before I listened to the book and I was interested in learning more about him, what pushed him, what motivated him, and the circumstances surrounding his death. However, upon finishing the book, I can't say I know a lot more about David Sharp.

The book does a good job at giving you the history of Everest - you'll hear about everything from the discovery of Everest, first climbing attempts, first summits, deaths, many, MANY mountaineers who'd climb it or attempted to reach the top. On one hand, I applaud the writer for doing such in-depth research. On the other hand, large parts of the book sounded like he was doing a history project in school. If you are reading about Everest for the first time, that might be interesting to you to learn about its history, but I thought the book would focus more on David Sharp and the whole 2006 season.

The book contains so many names and states so many facts and events, but it does just that - states the facts without any emotion or reason to it, so it's so easy to forget about the said names. It's difficult to follow it at times.

With all the names and facts crammed into this book, the overall feeling is that the book is dry. It has no emotion or feeling. I couldn't help the feeling of listening to a lengthy paper article.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • alasdair t.
  • 01-31-21

Mr T review..

Too much of a documentary with dates, places, times etc blah blah blah..Well read and pleasant to listen to but not much of a story about Everest..

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nikki Taylor
  • 10-01-20

Loved it!

It satisfied my Everest curiosity. I loved it. The accounts catapulted you onto the cliff face with the climbers.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Derek Vesey
  • 08-21-20

Excellent read

all round griping story and true account of a harrowing and heroic year on everest

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Simon
  • 08-13-20

Good and Bad

The book itself is interesting and captivating in parts but the narrator could be better. He should stay away from trying accents.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Emma
  • 06-22-20

Enjoyable and interesting book

I found the first few chapters a bit verbose but by chapter five the reason for all the names and introductions becomes clear. Having a better idea of the people involved, their background and motivation makes the events that followed more human and relatable.
An interesting informative breakdown of events I’d heard of previously only via the mainstream media. One I’m likely to listen to again.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa E Urquhart
  • 06-08-20

Lacks va va voom

Found it hard to stay interested, narrator voice quite flat. Flipped between stories without great links. Not as exciting as other everest accounts

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Georgie
  • 05-11-21

The most laughable accents I've ever heard

What on God's green earth ever possessed the narrator to use terrible accents is beyond me. Not only were the accents hilariously awful they were often wildly inaccurate, notably Sir Edmund Hillary ( a KIWI!) sounding like bloody crocodile Dundee!

I could not finish this book. Would not recommend.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Larissa
  • 02-26-21

An Amazing Recounting

A very in depth and clear history of the tragic past on Everest, which does not seek to lay blame or pardon behaviour.
The narration is okay, but let down by some of the attempts to mimic accents.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-23-20

Great book for mountain voyeurs

I'm not a climber but mountain climbing 8000metre peaks and those that do them fascinate me. This book goes into detail about what it takes, the path up the northern side, history of the mountain and climbers along with the morals and thinking of those on the mountain. Well written, nicely read, couldn't turn it off. Well recommended

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Paul
  • 01-29-20

great audiobook!

the writing, the performer, the story and the the way he put it all together... fantastic!
Definitely recommend. I'd listen to it again.