City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Tao of Everest Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 14 August 2009

Fringe 2009: Tao of Everest's Ian Woodall
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Ian Woodall
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Ian Woodall

If, when this reviewer was younger, Ian Woodall had been teaching at his old school rather than presenting his Tao of Everest, he might have paid more attention. Woodall certainly has a tale to tell, having climbed Everest on three occasions, although only officially reaching the summit on two of these. The reasons behind those climbs form the core of Woodall's narrative.

On the first, he reached the summit in the company of the woman who was to become his wife, although they lost (in all senses) their climbing partner Bruce Harrad on his descent. Encouraged by a message from Nelson Mandela, they had achieved the summit in spite of numerous discouragements and set-backs.

Following an ascent of the mountain's North Face, Woodall and his companion Cathy O'Dowd discovered friend and fellow climber Frankie Arsentiev's body. Unable because of its position and their own limited resources from retrieving Arsentiev's corpse, they were forced to leave the body of their friend on the mountain.

Woodall's concern to decently dispose of Arsentiev remained, and how this was finally achieved covers the rest of the time available. It's a remarkable story, illustrative of the decency of human beings and the ways they rally round when time and circumstances become hard.

Woodall's light-touch, dry and self-deprecating sense of humour bowls his story along through light and shade to great effect.

Illustrated by a number of well-chosen and striking images and equally well-chosen music, Tao of Everest makes for a well-spent two hours or so. A little off the beaten track of more central venues, it nonetheless stands up well in the busy traffic of the bustling and all to often self-obsessed Fringe.

Times: 7-31 August, 7pm

Copyright Bill Dunlop 2009

First published on 2009