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Monday, May 07, 2018

Summit Fever! Ascent (A Peak Marcello Adventure) by Roland Smith

We moved quickly, as Zopa suggested, without a word between us. At the eleventh flag, there was a deafening roar. "Run!" Josh shouted.

You can't outrun an avalanche. Josh grabbed me by the shoulder and turned me into the wall of snow and ice. "Climb it! Swim up!" he shouted.

The white wall smacked into me.

PITCH-DARK.

Peak Marcello hadn't exactly planned to summit Myanmar's formidable peak, Hkakabo Razi. This trip was supposed to be just an exotic vacation hike through Myanmar's tangled rain forest with his adventuring companions Nick and Alessia and guide Ethan.

But that hike is no walk in the park. Leeches, worms that borrow under the skin, and clouds of mosquitoes are just small nuisances compared to huge venomous snakes and a murderous guide whose pack elephant erupts in a killer rage from time to time,  a guide who cuts the rope bridges over gorges and who gets himself murdered, stranding them in the midst of nowhere; but when Nick suffers a severe concussion and Alessia goes along on the airlift to Yangon, Peak's jaunt through the jungle seems to be at an end.

But when the mysterious monk Zopa turns up with climbing gear and his two trusty Sherpa strongmen, Peak can't resist the old climber's suggestion that they try to climb Hkakabo's 19,250 foot summit. And at their first rest camp, Peak discovers that his father, Josh Wood, who has just completed the "Seven Summits" challenge ending in Everest, is also scaling Hkakabo Razi with a photography team. Peak has had almost no contact with his father throughout his life, and he neither trusts nor admires Josh, except for his mountaineering skills. But having come this far, he decides to go on with the climb. Peak manages to dig himself out of a sudden avalanche with his lucky spoon in his pocket, and when he recovers, he decides to go on with the ascent to the summit.

Weather worsens when they are a thousand feet below the summit, with rising temperatures that make the ice weak and the atmosphere foggy. Zopa and the Sherpas go ahead to place the protection pins, leaving Peak with his father to cross a glacier. Then things go downhill fast.

I fell over the edge while I was clipping into the rope. Josh's hand reached out and grabbed me by the wrist. The only thing between me and death was his strength.

Peak remembers what his mother has said about Josh. "At the end of your rope, there is no one better. Unfortunately, he doesn't pay much attention until you're dangling."

Peak is dangling.

"Let me go," I said. "No use in us both going over."

"I'm not letting you die alone," said Josh. "Try! Save me!"

It's again a cliffhanger in Roland Smith's forthcoming third book in series, Ascent (A Peak Marcello Adventure) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018). For fans of flat-out wild adventures in far places, it's hard to beat Smith's Peak Marcello Adventures, written with world-wide settings and fast and furious extreme survival scenes. Author Smith, however, doesn't totally neglect the other valleys and peaks in adolescence, working in relationships with his concerned mother, his difficult father, his independent girlfriend Alessia, and his own internal conflict over competing with a father who is a celebrity climber. With this one, it seems clear that Peak has much to learn about himself and more mountains yet to climb.

Previous books in this series are Peak (A Peak Marcello Adventure) and The Edge (A Peak Marcello Adventure) (see review here).

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