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It would appear that an inordinate number of Englishmen and assorted Continentals, to say nothing of Sherpas, have been shuttling up and down the world's highest mountains recently. To a man, they have been ambushed at the bottom by literary agents and motion picture producers-fierce tribes which apparently abound in the foothills of the Himalayas.
While noteworthy, much of this activity can be viewed with an air of amused tolerance. You see, I'm something of a mountaineer myself—part of a local group of enthusiasts who, although we may not have got to the "roof of the world," have surely rattled some shingles in our suburban neck of the woods.
Our expedition was got together rather hastily. I was sipping a tall sling one torrid night during the monsoon season when the telephone rang. It was George Meagre.
"Hello," he said. "I'm in trouble."
"Well?" I said.
"My television aerial is down."
These were ominous words indeed. George owns a monstrous old pile of masonry. His aerial stands atop the loftiest pinnacle of the roof. True, the previous owner had in some way scaled this wind-swept crag to make the original installation but in Meagre's time it had remained unassailed. Some months before, indeed, he had very nearly lost his life in an attempt to clean the leaves out of a downspout that lay well below the summit.
Nonetheless, George is not one to pay an outsider for a little repair job, and we formulated our plans that same night. We discussed and rejected several possible additions to the climbing party, finally settling on Harris Teal who was well known for intrepid work in retrieving his kid's box kite from various high points around town.
The rains stopped on the following morning, and Teal and I arrived at the foot of Meagre's soaring edifice toward noon. Meagre had already established Base Camp No. 1 in the kitchen near the refrigerator, and one of the native bearers (Mrs. Meagre) had been dispatched to obtain adequate supplies of beer and dill pickles.
As to the route of our trek, Meagre had the idea that an easy ascent could be made up the staircase and thence onto the roof through an attic window. The shrewder Teal, however, was quick to point out that the window passage gave access to the treacherous south face, so steep as to afford only the most precarious footing. He favored the east face. This, he pointed out, had a longer but more gradual slope whose lower end could be readily laddered from the ground. I concurred.