As if the danger of climbing Everest is not enough, High Crimes tells of the unbelievable human corruption that is greatly increasing climbers’ risk. The book contains two main storylines; one concerning an older climber who dies at the hands of a horrendous guide and the other is the author’s personal story of an expedition he went on. Throughout the book there are side stories of how greed and self interest is making mountaineering so much more dangerous than it should be.
Some of the accounts that Kodas presents in this book are absolutely bone chilling. Stories of stolen equipment are bad enough, but when climbers don’t find out it is missing until they are climbing back down from a summit bid is horrendous. Climbers at high altitude are living on the edge nearly all the time, between low oxygen levels and exhaustion, it takes very little for them to never return. Even if a climber is completely prepared, things like stolen oxygen bottles and cut ropes can never be fully planned and can easily lead to a climber’s death.
High Crimes has very intriguing stories, but I felt like it jumped around a bit too much and the book’s main focus became lost at times. One of the two main storylines was concerning a self centered guide that basically killed his client and this was very detailed and interesting. The other main storyline was of the author himself and an Everest expedition he was on. This second storyline seemed a lot like a personal grudge and had many rants that did not seem to fit with the drastic nature of the other accounts. For me the book jumped around between storylines too frequently and made it difficult to follow.
Overall it was a fascinating read, but would have been much better with a bit more focus and either condensing the personal storyline or removing it all together. Many of the side stories were absolutely fascinating and shocking at the same time. I found it amazing just how low people would stoop for money and fame. If you have an interest in the dark side of mountaineering then this is worth a read, but could have been much better.