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231: Will Cockrell/The Business of Everest

As regular listeners will know, I don’t often cover mountaineering and climbing on Looking Sideways.

But I knew I had to make an exception for Everest Inc., Will Cockrell’s brilliantly-written and nuanced exploration of the increasingly commodified world of mountaineering on the world’s highest peak.

Firstly, as somebody who’s been devouring books on climbing, adventure, and exploration since I was a kid, I was intrigued to discover that Will had managed to find a fresh angle on the most obvious topic of all.

Secondly, there’s much more to Will’s book than a straightforward retelling of the history of guided exploration on Everest.

At its heart, Everest Inc. is a dispassionate examination of the increasingly commodified nature of adventure, bookended by those first British expeditions; and, latterly, Nirmal Purja’s testosterone-fuelled approach to the business of mountaineering.

In this classically meandering Looking Sideways chat, Will and I discuss the ethics of commercialisation, the socio-economic impact of climbing, and the legacy of colonialism and empire that underpins the entire tale.

We also pondered the challenges of writing about a subject that has at this point been done to death – especially when two of your main subjects refuse to be interviewed; as well as the recent New York Times story about Nirmal Purja that broke the week we spoke.

I really enjoyed this one – let me know what you think. It’s good to be back. Listen below:

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