There is a real beauty in maps, of where you could go, where you are now, where you have been. For mountaineers, most can pore over them, seeing routes and imagining new adventures in every contour.
Miklos Pinther was the Chief Cartographer at the United Nations when I met him through a mutual friend. Miklos joined us on our walk into the Kangshung Face on Everest and was instrumental in providing the advance knowledge and route finding that led to our new route on the face.
Visiting Miklos’s map room at the United Nations, with country boundaries defining nation-states, with a library of maps stretching across time and with access to the latest technology was always an adventure in itself, with new peaks, routes and hidden corners of the world to be discovered.
Miklos created vertical schematics of our Kangshung Face route, helping us to see the gradient, the couloirs and the rocky pillars in relief long before we arrived. And then when I set out for the 7 summits, he created this relief of the 7 summits as a cross section. And for those who know the peaks well, they will see the profiles are true to form, with Everest, and Lhotse to its left standing out as viewed from the East.
While a topographic map gives you the where and the way, this map gives us what as climbers we often find the best, the vertical. The parts that go steeply up and down. Little wonder looking at this why Everest reigns supreme. And why that South Face of Lhotse dropping straight off its’ summit is so daunting.
As everything turns into a way point and a route, with our GPS making movies of our climbs, sometimes it is still in these varied views, in looking at the world in a different way, horizontally and also vertically, that the next adventures sometimes lie.
While this map used modern technology, I’d also discovered a map shop in Bond street in London that houses a collection of vertical maps, cut from old books, as many were at the time.
Deep in a box was a map from the 1850’s with the tallest peak still unnamed but listed as 29,000 feet high. With a mix of tiny drawings showing the highest a person had been at the time ( a Frenchman in a balloon to 23,000 feet) to a Lama grazing on a hillside in South America. It was a story in itself and soon formed the end-papers of my first book, Seven Summits Solo.
The Southern (left) and Northern (right) routes on Everest seen from Makalu.