"From Carrauntoohil to South Georgia via
Mount Everest" review by the late Joss Lynam in the Irish Mountain Log issue 85 - Spring 2008
The stories Pat Falvey tells are of his climbs in the Himalaya, on the other of the ‘seven summits’ and of his more recent Antarctic travel. It is not chronological – the chapter headings are the mountains he has climbed, although to some extent they follow his development from Carrauntoohil to South Georgia. I like this formula; one can read about all his experiences on one peak, rather than having to leaf back to check some reference. Some mountaineers have denigrated his climbs as “commercial” and certainly he gained experience with commercial leaders such as Jon Tinker. But the book shows how he benefited from the experience he acquired and became a leader himself of parties to mountains that he wanted to climb. The mountains Falvey describes are well worthwhile; Everest from the north and the south, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, McKinley and Vinson are all climbs for which I respect him, whether or not (as some of them were) they were ‘first Irish’ ascents. I accept that a ‘first something’ is a very necessary tool for getting sponsorship, but thereafter it is of less importance, for surely there is only one true first, the very first time a mountain is climbed, with its challenge of the unknown.
There is a clear picture in his stories of the risks in high-altitude climbing. On every one of the climbs at least one of his companions had to give up because of altitude sickness and he himself had to retreat from below the Second Step with aoap/ap. He records the fatalities in other parties of climbers who did not turn back in time. The photographs are exceptionally good and very numerous. There are about fifty full-page 25cm x 25cm pictures, including some that are a page-anda-half, and countless smaller ones. They aren’t credited, so I assume they are all by the author. For me, the ridge of Ama Dablam and the Second Step on Everest stand out, but there many others just as good and it is a credit to his photography in difficult conditions that his shots could stand up to such enlargement. Even of the small ones, there are very few that one could wonder why it was included. The book is worth the price for the photographs alone. Pat Falvey has now turned his attention to the Antarctic, though this book was written before his recent spectacular walk to the South Pole, a different, more sustained challenge. What next, one wonders?