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High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greedby Michael Kodas
Synopses & Reviews
In 2004, journalist Michael Kodas joined local mountain climbers from home on an expedition to Mount Everest. He anticipated an exhilarating and arduous adventure among a group of like-minded idealists that he could report to his readers back in Connecticut. But on the Himalayan mountain, he discovered thieves, prostitutes, con men, and blackmailers. There were people who would do anything for a quick buck, or a guarantee of reaching the top. And some of them were on his own team.
Thieves stole equipment on which the team's lives depended, Kodas's life was threatened by one of his teammates, and a climbing partner was beaten unconscious by another in Base Camp. He returned from the Himalaya disillusioned. But a plea for help from the daughter of a mountaineer who vanished on Everest on the very day that Kodas had retreated from his own disintegrating team prompted him to return to Everest and uncover an underworld that preys on unsuspecting climbers on major peaks around the world.
High Crimes is a shocking expose of the dark underside of Everest: people stepping over dying climbers on their way up; unscrupulous con men who sell faulty oxygen tanks that leave climbers without air when their lives depend on it; drugs and prostitution in Base Camp; and people all but murdered in the cutthroat race to get to the top. Illustrated with incredible photographs and written with thriller-like pacing, High Crimes is a gripping and fascinating story.
"Journalist Kodas has written a disturbing account of stupidity and greed on the slopes of Mount Everest. On assignment for the Hartford Courant in 2004, Kodas joined an expedition led by a couple who had summited the mountain more than a dozen times between them. As he moved up Everest, Kodas watched his expedition disintegrate in a mess of recriminations, thefts, lies and violence. At the same time, a sociopathic guide was leading a 69-year-old doctor to his death on the unforgiving slopes. The twin disasters led Kodas to delve into the commercialization of Mount Everest, and to discover that such experiences were becoming a depressing norm. A thorough reporter, Kodas does an excellent job exposing the ways in which money and ego have corrupted the traditional cultures of both mountaineers and their Sherpa guides. He also brings a painful focus to the delusions, misunderstandings and indifference that allow climbers to literally step over the bodies of dying people on their way to the top. Oddly enough, Kodas writes less ably about himself, and the reasons for his own expedition's collapse remain unclear; the sequencing of story lines is confusing as well. Nevertheless, his narrative is as hard to turn away from as a slow-motion train wreck. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"High Crimes is both fascinating and terrifying. As someone who shies away from climbing stairs, let alone mountains, I was completely blown away by the high-stakes drama and intrigue of this Everest story. Kodas's vivid writing kept me up for two straight nights, and my heart is still racing! The story is tragic, yet somehow also uplifting — a true masterpiece!" Ben Mezrich, New York Times bestselling author of Bringing Down the House and Rigged
"Seeking to experience the high ambitions of an Everest climb himself, Michael Kodas found instead the little-known underworld of the world’s tallest peak...compelling reading for anyone who thinks mountaineering is a noble pursuit." Greg Child, author of Over the Edge
"The Everest described by Kodas is an extreme theme park, a sort of globalized Wild West populated by unscrupulous characters whose guiding principles are amateurism (in the bad sense), thievery, egotism, and deadly greed." Very Short List
"Kodas peppers the book with numerous story lines....His over-ambitiousness as an investigative reporter means readers must go slowly, so the numerous sagas can be absorbed at a high level of comprehension. That is a reasonable price to pay, however, for an important, brave and, yes, shocking book." Hartford Courant
"While Antezana's story was reported in the Washington Post and Kodas's dispatches published in the Courant, the juxtaposition of these two accounts, with their many thrilling yet troubling details, makes this...highly recommended." Library Journal
"A clear-eyed, riveting narrative." Kirkus Reviews
Book News Annotation:
Kodas, a journalist with The Hartford Courant and a seasoned climber, has written a very disturbing and fast-paced account of the dark side of climbing Mount Everest. Drugs, prostitution, theft and violent crime, and total disregard for human life were among the kinds of behavior the author found when he joined a New England group on an expedition to Everest. The author also discusses the environmental, economic, and moral implications of the conditions that face unsuspecting climbers on Everest today. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
High Crimes is journalist Michael Kodas's gripping account of life on top of the world--where man is every bit as deadly as Mother Nature. In the years following the publication of Into Thin Air, much has changed on Mount Everest. Among all the books documenting the glorious adventures in mountains around the world, none details how the recent infusion of wealthy climbers is drawing crime to the highest place on the planet. The change is caused both by a tremendous boom in traffic, and a new class of parasitic and predatory adventurer. It's likely that Jon Krakauer would not recognize the camps that he visited on Mount Everest almost a decade ago. This book takes readers on a harrowing tour of the criminal underworld on the slopes of the world's most majestic mountain. High Crimes describes two major expeditions: the tragic story of Nils Antezana, a climber who died on Everest after he was abandoned by his guide; as well as the author's own story of his participation in the Connecticut Everest Expedition, guided by George Dijmarescu and his wife and climbing partner, Lhakpa Sherpa. Dijmarescu, who at first seemed well-intentioned and charming, turned increasingly hostile to his own wife, as well as to the author and the other women on the team. By the end of the expedition, the three women could not travel unaccompanied in base camp due to the threat of violence. Those that tried to stand against the violence and theft found that the worst of the intimidation had followed them home to Connecticut. Beatings, thefts, drugs, prostitution, coercion, threats, and abandonment on the highest slopes of Everest and other mountains have become the rule rather than the exception. Kodas describes many such experiences, and explores the larger issues these stories raise with thriller-like intensity.
"The perfect follow-up to Krakauer's riveting account of a perfect storm."
"Kodas's absorbing description of the narrow moral compass governing human interaction at the top of the world is bound to shock both armchair adventurers and seasoned mountaineers."
"(Kodas) discovered more deceit, thievery, and double-crossing among his climbers than you find in a Martin Scorsese gangster film. High Crimes is both an adventure story and an expos of a sport riddled with danger and corruption."
--Washington Post Book World
"Kodas's descriptions of the struggles confronting even the best-prepared climbers leave the reader breathless."
--Dallas Morning News
"[High Crimes] is hair-raising and lays bare the excitement and fear that face great explorers at the top of the world. . . . Well written, and as deftly plotted as the finest mystery novel, Kodas brings to life a disturbing picture of society at high altitude."
"Kodas does an excellent job exposing the ways in which money and ego have corrupted the traditional cultures of both mountaineers and their Sherpa guides. . . . His narrative is as hard to turn away from as a slow-motion train wreck."
High Crimes is journalist Michael Kodas's gripping account of life on top of the world--where man is every bit as deadly as Mother Nature.
About the Author
Michael Kodas is a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of journalists at The Hartford Courant, where he has worked since 1987 as a reporter and photographer. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, and Newsweek. He lives in Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife, Carolyn Moreau.
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