The story of Sherpa mountaineers from early expeditions to the present day

It seems like ages since I released a new book. In fact, it’s barely 18 months since I published the revised edition of The Baruntse Adventure in April 2020. Since then I’ve produced audiobook versions of three of my biggest-selling books, in between holding down a full-time job and doing lots of gardening in our (no longer so) new place in the countryside.

So I’m super excited to make two big announcements in today’s post.

Big Announcement 1

Yes, I have a brand new book out (well sort of). It’s newish, and it’s not quite out yet because although it’s finished, it’s still waiting for a cover. As soon as the cover’s ready – hopefully this week – it’ll be available as an ebook. The paperback will follow soon after, and I’m planning to do an audiobook next year. In lieu of an actual book cover, here’s a pretty picture to whet your appetite.

Sherpa raises prayer flags during a puja at Everest Base Camp
Sherpa raises prayer flags during a puja at Everest Base Camp

But so much for pictures, what’s the book about and how did I find the time to write it?

Well, I’ve often whined in this blog that working full time is hardly conducive to producing a lot of new writing. Luckily, it so happens that I’ve been sitting on a substantial body of work, unpublished in book form. It was just waiting for a fresh pair of eyes to look it over and help me edit it into something that reads like a story.

Over the last few months I’ve been working with my regular editor Alex Roddie to review and curate an anthology of some of the best posts from this blog. I’m really pleased with the final outcome, Sherpa Hospitality as a Cure for Frostbite.

We chose the subject of Sherpa mountaineers for this first collection. I’ve written a lot about Sherpas over the eleven years of this blog, from historical pieces about the early years of Himalayan mountaineering, to whimsical rambles about Sherpa culture, to – perhaps more memorably and certainly more seriously, eyewitness accounts of events and controversies that I’ve found myself thrust into. More recently I’ve written about the changes that have seen Sherpas step out of the limelight and take greater control of adventure tourism in the Himalayas.

It’s been a privilege to have Alex working on this project with me. Since he first started editing my books in 2015 he’s become one of the most highly respected writers and editors in the UK outdoor scene. As well as being one of the best in the business, he also happens to be on the same wavelength as I am on many things. In the course of this project, he read every post I’ve written about Sherpas and selected which ones should go into the collection. He also wrote the foreword to the book and came up with the crucial idea of giving it a three-part plot structure involving emergence, conflict and eventual triumph.

If I still haven’t convinced you to head over to your favourite e-bookstore next week and download it to your device, here’s the back cover blurb:

Ever since Europeans started exploring the world’s highest mountains and trying to reach their summits in the early 20th century, Sherpas have been an integral part of mountaineering expeditions to the Himalayas. In this anthology curated from his popular Footsteps on the Mountain blog, Mark Horrell explores the evolution of Sherpa mountaineers, from the porters of early expeditions to the superstar climbers of the present day.

Writing with trademark warmth and humour, he starts by bringing to life the Sherpa characters of the early days, describing their customs and superstitions, and putting their contributions and achievements into context.

In the deeply personal second section of the book, he covers some of the conflicts of the 21st century, when a series of high-profile controversies highlighted the tensions between Sherpas and western climbers on Everest. He was a witness to a devastating avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall that killed 16 Nepali mountain workers and led to a labour dispute, and he describes the events that followed from a commercial client’s perspective.

In the final section of the book, he brings the story up to date and looks to the future, as Sherpas have moved out of the limelight of westerners, running successful mountaineering expedition companies and becoming celebrated climbers in their own right.

If you’re wondering about the slightly quirky title, that comes from the first piece in the collection, an amusing and surprising story of Pasang Dawa Lama and the Austrian Herbert Tichy on Cho Oyu.

All of the articles in the anthology first appeared in this blog, but they’ve been edited slightly from the original to avoid repetition and to help the flow of the story from start to finish. While you may have read them previously, they will definitely be appreciated better in the order we have arranged them in this book.

Sherpa Hospitality as a Cure for Frostbite will be available as an e-book in all the major online stores in the next few days. It will be released as a paperback in early 2022 and as an audiobook later in the year. I will let you know as soon as it’s available.

Big Announcement 2

And before I sign off, I have something even more special to tell you about. In the 1970s, a yeti famously attacked a herd of yaks in a field outside Machermo in the Gokyo Valley. This means that you’ve quite literally got more chance of spying a yeti in the Gokyo Valley than you have of seeing me live on stage, talking about my books – until now!

A corollary of this is that there are way more signed Boningtons in circulation than signed Horrells. Just think what the latter must therefore be worth

HULF Talk - Travel & AdventureI’m happy to say that I’ll be making a rare public appearance at the HULF Talk event on Travel & Adventure this Saturday. Further details can be found on the HULF website. HULF is the super friendly Hawkesbury and Upton Literature Festival in the delightful Cotswold village of – yes, that’s right – Hawkesbury Upton. This event is the first in their new series of informal afternoon talks. I’ll be talking about Sherpa Hospitality as a Cure for Frostbite, as well as the old favourite Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest and flogging signed copies of all my books for anyone who’ll have them.

Only 40 tickets have been issued for this unique event and I’ve been told they may not be available on the door, so if you’re anywhere near the Cotswolds this weekend and you fancy an afternoon of adventure, then book now via Eventbrite and mosey on down.

Hope to see you there!

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