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Mountaineering and Exploring


A Thousand Years of Exploration


About this book:

  • ISBN: 978 190 452 4915

  • Hardback with dust jacket

  • Published September 2013

  • Price £30.00 + postage

  • 368 pages

  • Illustrated with 102 photographs, drawings and maps

  • Jacket illustration: The north side of Everest, painting by T Howard Somervell, FRCS



I am more convinced than ever that this book is the most interesting ever written about Everest – Jan Morris, CBE, Times correspondent attached to the 1953 expedition.

Here you will find original material, meticulously researched, set out in forensic detail towards a more authentic history of discovery and climbing on Everest. No-one was better placed to write this book, since Michael Ward did so much to pioneer the way to the summit. Doug Scott, CBE

From the earliest attempts to the final success in 1953 Michael Ward shines a new light on the challenges and ultimate success on Everest. His immensely detailed insight into all expeditions and his professional assessment of the background to success in 1953 make for rivetting reading and will no doubt prompt many a heated debate. This is a remarkable book which brings rarely mentioned crucial figures to the fore and has to be absolutely essential reading for anyone with the slightest interest in the build up to the first ascent of the highest mountain in the world – Mick Fowler, President, The Alpine Club

About this book:

First published to acclaim in 2003 Everest: A Thousand Years of Exploration has been out of print since shortly after the author’s death in 2005. This new edition, published in response to interest from France and the USA includes a new foreword by Eric Vola, French alpinist and UK Alpine Club member.
This is the first comprehensive monograph to tell the Everest story as it has evolved over the centuries. Central to this history was the First Ascent in 1953.
Michael Ward, a London surgeon and mountaineer, was directly involved in the pivotal events that led to success. In late 1950, while serving as a Medical Officer to the Brigade of Guards, he searched the neglected and uncatalogued archives of the Royal Geographical Society and discovered the forgotten Milne-Hinks maps, as well as a series of hitherto unknown photos taken on covert flights over Everest in the late 1940s. Together these provided clear evidence of a feasible route from the south. From early 1951 onwards, scientists from the Royal Society and Medical Research Council initiated and conducted definitive research into the problems of extreme altitude which provided the key to the successful first ascent.

Everest has now been climbed thousands of times by many different routes but it was only in 1978, 25 years after the first ascent, that the mountain was first climbed without the use of supplementary oxygen. The book includes a number of maps specially produced at the Royal Geographical Society to illustrate exploratory journeys in the Everest region from the Middle Ages to the present. It sheds new light on a complex story, leading to the 1953 breakthrough which accelerated the exploration and ascent of the world’s highest peaks.

The First Ascent also led to the emergence of a thriving medical speciality, High Altitude Medicine and Physiology, which helps the 150 million people who live at altitude each year. In human terms, this is the main legacy of Everest.

Photograph: Michael Ward, in 1956

About the Author:

Michael Ward was a member and Medical Officer of both the 1951 and 1953 Everest expeditions. Since 1951 he climbed, explored, mapped and carried out medical research in the great ranges of the Himalaya, in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and the Pamir. Holder of the Founder’s Gold Medal of the RGS, he was given unique access to rarely available information to complete this ‘Biography’ of the world’s highest peak.

The foreword is written by Eric Vola, a French climber who lives in Chamonix and Marseille. He spent three years at University College, London, and climbed in the early 1960s with Chris Bonington, Nick Escourt, Don Whillans, Gunn Clarke, Martin Boysen and other Brits. In recent years he has translated British mountaineering books, including a selection of Chris Bonington’s best stories, Ruth Hanson’s biography of Maurice Wilson (royalties to Doug Scott's charity Community Action Nepal), Learning to Breathe by Andy Cave, The Sound of Gravity by Joe Simpson and Everest 1953 by Mick Conefrey.

Photograph: Michael Ward, 1981 when he led the Kongur Expedition with Chris Bonington

More Reviews:

"When I started work at Poplar Hospital in the East End of London, Michael Ward was at that time completing yet another expedition to the Himalayas, and this renowned expedition doctor, talented climber and member of the successful 1953 Everest expedition was expected with great anticipation. When he did arrive, he looked every bit the man of action: lean, fit and lithe, deeply tanned with a fine head of prematurely grey hair, a firm jaw and a steely, penetrating look. Mr. Ward was in all ways the decisive man... Slightly aloof, yet intuitive and abundantly kind, he had those indefinable qualities of leadership, which were ably demonstrated in his day-to-day life as surgeon, and like all great leaders the ability to bring out the best in those associated with him."
Dr John Morrison, The Times

"This volume is the exception in the inflationary flood of Everest anniversary books repeating the same old stories over and over again. Michael Ward's history begins at 800AD, reviews the early sources and maps and presents Hermann von Schlagintweit's aquarelle of 1855 showing Makalu described as ‘Gaurisánkar or Mount Everest’. The authentic appeal of an original source distinguishes this book from the recycled publications. It is a must for those seriously interested in Mount Everest and a demonstration that the meticulous study of history can be fascinating and an inspiration to those who seek adventure in the future. "
Oswald Oelz, Alpine Journal Review.

"This book on the history of Everest has perhaps the best collection of maps as well as the best accounts of the early exploration of the mountain. A must have for the student of Everest by one of the members of the 1951 and 1953 expeditions."
William Buxton, Toronto, Ontario

"Michael Ward was indeed ‘the last Pundit’ and a person well worthy to carry that name."
Lord David Wilson

"As a young doctor, Michael Ward was the medical linchpin of the successful 1953 ascent of Everest. As well as this, he organised the vital reconnaissance expedition in 1951 which explored the possibility of tackling Everest from the south, rather than the north, starting in Nepal, then a closed country. Ward's discovery of a potential route to the summit from the south happened during his national service with the Royal Army Medical Corps when, rather romantically, he unearthed a dusty packet of aerial photographs taken by an RAF flight of this unexplored side of Everest. Its climbable features were immediately apparent to Ward, who was an all-round mountaineer of considerable natural talent."
The Guardian,
October 2005

"Michael Ward played a vital part in the 1951 Mount Everest Reconnaissance when he accompanied Eric Shipton, Bill Murray, Tom Bourdillon, Ed Hillary and Earle Riddiford when they discovered an approach to Mount Everest from the Nepalese side, paving the way for the ultimate first ascent, news of which broke in London on the eve of Her Majesty's coronation. As the official 1953 expedition doctor, he had played another important role in this milestone of mountaineering, when his climbing contribution complemented his medical and research work. Mike Ward was a hero for many of us students. More than a quarter of a century later, when I was engaged in teaching mountain safety my most valuable resource was Mountain Medicine by Michael Ward. Written concisely and logically, one could hear him talking through its pages. He made so many contributions to mountaineering and its literature that cannot be enumerated in a few paragraphs but in retirement (his and mine), I read with undiminished admiration his Everest: A Thousand Years of Exploration. Same style for the last milestone – so well expressed and thoroughly researched. A great example. "
Dr Kevin Doran, The London Hospital Gazette.


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