The Storms of Denali, by Nicholas O’Connell
Reading this book, I found myself continually re-checking whether it’s a novel, or a factual account. These characters are so touching they ascend from the page and bivouac in my heart and soul as real people. The harrowing description of their expedition is so believable, it‘s gripping.
John Walker narrates the story and expedition. He’s a family man who is dissatisfied with what he views is a sedate life as an outdoor equipment store manager, husband and father. He contrasts this to his previously active, mountain-climbing, single life. He’s nursing the wound of turning back before making the summit at Denali last time. Wyn Mitchell is John’s long-time friend, former climbing partner, and a world-class climber who boasts a risky climbing style. Wyn is the expedition leader. He’s driven to make his own personal big splash with this Denali climb in order to attract backers for his desire to attempt Everest next.
John’s wife sets conditions on his undertaking this long and potentially fatal trip. One condition is that John and his partner share the climb with two others, and that one of them has medical skills. That brings into the story Al McKenzie, a Boeing engineer who hopes this climb will help him forge an individual victory that will carry him past his divorce and beyond his corporate work life. Lane Frederickson also signs on. He is a fireman, medic and novice climber who desperately wants to establish himself as a serious climber. The author gives full and vivid treatment to each of these characters – their strengths, weaknesses and how their combination is a volatile mix that precipitates a disaster.
The prominent character towering from the page is the deadly Denali, the great one. Not enough to climb Denali, Wyn wants to make his splash with a new route to the top. Denali will have the final say about that. This is an authentic tale of man’s struggle in nature, and man’s struggle with human nature. The author, Nicholas O’Connell, is a mountain climber. One of the mountains he’s climbed is Denali. His experiences and talented writing bring such realism to this story.
You don’t have to be a mountain climber to appreciate this daring fight for survival on the highest and coldest mountain in North America. I’m a casual hiker, and I was enthralled with every page of this adventure. The pristine descriptions transported me to this foreign destination. The magnificent setting is both alluring and frightening. I recommend that you begin your own expedition into “The Storms of Denali” and experience it for yourself.
Thereby hangs a tale . . . .
– By Wendy Kendall
Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. She’s enjoyed living in Edmonds for over 20 years. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.