The Mount Washington Valley, with its access to the cliffs and summits of the White Mountains, has been home in the past and present to many world class mountaineers.
Today, 51 year old guide/explorer/author Mark Synnott of Jackson is very active in pursuit of summits and adventure, and of writing about them. His first major book was “The Impossible Dream: Alex Honnold, El Capitan and the Climbing Life.” Using Alex Honnold’s epic solo of El Capitan as a theme, Synnott also introduced readers to the world of modern climbing and its followers through his own journey. The quality of his writing shone through.
Synnott’s second book, “The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession and Death on Mount Everest “ publishes next week on April 13. North Conway’s White Birch Books is teaming up with National Geographic for a live event on April 15 at 1 p.m. White Birch is the only bookseller offering signed copies of “The Third Pole” with books available in-store and shipping nationwide. You can tune into the interactive event via National Geographic’s Facebook page.
A 24-year member of the North Face Global Athletic Team, and pursuing adventures across the globe, in the past few years his stories have frequently appeared in National Geographic Magazine. With this relationship with National Geographic, he instigated and helped organize an expedition to Mount Everest’s north side in 2019 called the Sandy Irvine Research Expedition. Its primary goal, even beyond reaching the summit was to look for the body of Sandy Irvine, climbing partner of George Mallory.
In their 1924 attempt on Everest from the north, Mallory and Irvine were last seen climbing into the clouds on their way to the summit and never returned. The question of whether they got to the summit has haunted climbing historians since. Their camera, preserved in the cold, might hold the truth. In 1999, Mallory’s body was found on the upper slopes of the mountain. But he had no camera.
The commercialization of Everest in recent decades has turned off many elite climbers. But Synnnott caught the bug to look for Sandy Irvine and the camera when he attended a lecture by well known Mount Washington Valley adventurer Thom Pollard, who had been to Everest three times and summited once. Pollard had some recently developed information by Everest scholars pinpointing where Irving’s body was likely to be.
That did it. The expedition was organized and they went. For practicality and vital experience on the mountain, they hired a professional guide service to supply the needs of an Everest expedition, such as oxygen.
Along with Synnott and Pollard, photographer and cinematographer Renan Ozturk, another member of the North Face Global Athletic Team went, along with others.
Many of you have seen both the National Geographic feature article and the movie “Lost on Everest” about the expedition.
The 417-page hardcover book “The Third Pole” is something else altogether. It took Synnott two years to write it. He has a talent for inclusivity, welcoming readers into the experience every step of the way. A modern expedition book is not like an old book about Mount Everest, of which there are many.
The technology used is considerable, such as drones and communication. Often he compares his modern equipment with that used by Mallory and Irvine such as boots, clothing and rope. Yet on the mountain the commitment is essentially the same, and a considerable risk. Every year, people die on the mountain.
Of interest are the adaptations made by the expedition along the way to complete their mission. Should the expedition be about finding Irving or reaching the summit?
Also, as expert modern climbers, when the expedition was done, did they still think Mount Everest had become a tourist attraction, luring unqualified people on an ego trip? The expedition was transformational for its members, and one could submit that is sign of an unqualified success.
Don’t forget, you can order signed copies of the book now at White Birch Books, at (603) 356-3200. And tune in on the April 15 on Nat Geo Live at 1 p.m. to listen to one of the great modern mountain storytellers.