Everest: The First Ascent – The Untold Story of Griffith Pugh, the Man who Made It Possible by Harriet Tuckey - review by John Keay

John Keay

High Altitude, Low Profile

Everest: The First Ascent – The Untold Story of Griffith Pugh, the Man who Made It Possible

By

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It’s fair to say that Dr Lewis Griffith Cresswell Evans Pugh was not the most appreciated member of the 1953 expedition to Mount Everest. In The Conquest of Everest, the award-winning film of the expedition, Pugh appeared just twice, once in a catatonic state to demonstrate how oxygen deprivation affected the brain, and once in the process of subjecting an ‘unfortunate’ climber to what the narrator called a ‘not very popular’ experiment. This apparently involved a ‘contraption of glass and rubber’ to which the subject was connected, before being made to work out until he dropped.

Nor was The Ascent of Everest, Sir John Hunt’s bestselling book of the expedition, any more complimentary. Here Pugh, a physiologist rather than a physiotherapist, was described as a ‘horrifying sight’ when deprived of oxygen – and not much better when permitted it, with his dirty pyjamas and his shock

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