This is it, I told myself. Fifteen more handholds and I've topped it.
I reached up for the next seam and encountered a little snag. Well, a big snag really...
My right ear and cheek were frozen to the wall.
To reach the top you must have resolve, muscles, skill, and...
Mine was anchored to that wall like a bolt, and a portion of it stayed there when I gathered enough resolve to tear it loose. Now I was mad, which was exactly what I needed to finish the climb.
Cursing with every vertical lunge, I stopped about four feet below the edge, tempted to tag this monster with the blood running down my neck. But instead I took the mountain stencil out of my pack (cheating, I know, but you have to have two hands to do it freehand), slapped it on the wall, and filled it with blue spray paint.
This is when the helicopter came up behind me and nearly blew me off the wall.
"You are under arrest!" an amplified voice shouted above the deafening rotors.
I never knew I was interested in mountain climbing, but apparently I am! Or rather, Smith has made me so. His story of Peak, a 14-year-old who climbs skyscrapers for fun (is this real!? is it even possible!?), is arrested and has to move to Nepal to live with the world-famous mountain climber father he barely knows. He then proceeds to befriend a Tibetan teen, psychologically grapple with a Chinese policeman, and learn to climb Mt. Everest!
It was fascinating. I had no idea the preparation involved. You can't just climb the mountain straight up--you climb to a camp, then hike back down. You rest low for several days, letting your red blood cells get more oxygenated (I think?), before hiking back up. The whole process takes weeks! That is some serious devotion.
On top of that commitment, there's the constant deaths of people attempting to summit the mountain. The scene where Peak nears the top was chilling, as he stops counting corpses after the fifth one. It is too high up there for helicopters to fly and retreive bodies, so anyone who dies about 26,000 feet will stay there forever.
I learned a lot. I honestly didn't know what to expect from the ending. And the family relationships were very compelling--Peak and his father work through some issues without ever devolving into sentimental silliness. Also, Zopa is one of the coolest people I've ever read about. I might attempt to climb Mt. Everest just to experience life with the close-mouthed monk/expert mountain climber.
Four out of five oxygen tanks.
Release Date: May 2007
Reading Level: Grade 6+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: CAUDILL