Book Review – UP: MY LIFE’S JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF EVEREST by Ben Fogle (2018)

by Ben Fogle (& Marina Fogle)
First published by William Collins, 2018, 270pp
ISBN: 978-0-00-831922-9

Blurb: In April 2018, seasoned adventurer Ben Fogle and Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, along with mountaineer Kenton Cool, took on their most exhausting challenge yet – climbing Everest for the British Red Cross to highlight the environmental challenges mountains face. It would be harrowing and exhilarating in equal measure as they walked the fine line between life and death 8,000 metres above sea level. For Ben, the seven-week expedition into the death zone was to become the adventure of a lifetime, as well as a humbling and enlightening journey. For his wife Marina, holding the family together at home, it was an agonising wait for news. Together, they dedicated the experience to their son, Willem Fogle, stillborn at eight months. Cradling little Willem to say goodbye, Ben and Marina made a promise to live brightly. To embrace every day. To always smile. To be positive and to inspire. And from the depths of their grief and dedication, Ben’s Everest dream was born. Up, from here the only way was Up. Part memoir, part thrilling adventure, Ben and Marina’s account of his ascent to the roof of the world is told with their signature humour and warmth, as well as with profound compassion.

Ben Fogle’s book is part-journal and part-philosophical statement. Fogle’s crave for adventure stems from a childhood of insecurity and it is his approach to life and his willingness to challenge himself that shines through. Everest is both a physical and metaphorical mountain to summit and it is interesting to contrast the drive and ambition that takes Fogle on his journey against the come-down after he has achieved his goal, the latter covered all too briefly. Fogle eloquently makes the point that life needs to be a series of goals and challenges and not just an individual one. His positive outlook is mirrored by the book’s title. Look up rather than down, keep cheallnging yourself to get better, chase your dreams. Fogle’s writing is complemented by that of Marina, his wife who gives the perspective of the spouse and family left behind to worry, whilst her husband chases his dreams in the most dangerous of locations. Marina’s spirit and selflessness shines even more brightly than that of her husband and enables us to contrast the routine of everyday life with the bold adventure of the expedition. Fogle’s travelling companions were experienced climber Kenton Cool and Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton. Victoria’s struggles with altitude sickness on the trip are well documented and ultimately caused her to abort her climb. Fogle went on to fulfil his dream and reach the top and he vividly documents the struggles of doing so, outlining the chaos on the mountain as dozens of climbers from various expeditions scramble for position. Whilst Fogle may tend to over-play his philosophy on life at the expense of the drama of the climb, often repeating  anbd sometimes labouring the same point, his book remains a fascinating insight into why adventurers test themselves to the limit.