Margaret McConkle and her husband, Patrick, had lived in Kenya for a few months when Patrick
and their landlord and his wife decided they needed to climb Mt. Kenya. This is the last thing
Margaret wanted to do. She hated the thought of the cold weather, crossing glaciers, and falling.
But Patrick was adamant. He wanted to climb Mt. Kenya just so he could say he’d done it. The
thrill of the climb was lost on him. He just wanted to brag about results. When their landlord’s
wife, Diana, falls into the glacier to her death, the rest turn around and go back.
Margaret never dreamed that this incident would damage her own marriage. But it has.
Patrick blames her slowness for Diana’s death, since Diana’s rushing ahead of the guide was
the reason she fell. She was impatient because Margaret was not in shape for the climb and was
slowing them down. The other couple who was climbing with them also blamed Margaret. However, Diana’s husband,
Arthur, blames himself because he’d been holding hands with Margaret during the night as the
three couples all slept in the same hut. This weighed heavily on Margaret along with other
disasters that befell her.
A Change in Altitude is also a story about changing attitudes. Margaret makes an
effort to change people’s attitudes with her camera, taking pictures of Kenyans in the poverty
in which they lived. She was able to affect one life. It is a typical story of foreigners who
treat people as second class citizens. It is also filled with characters who are normal, living
human beings, with weaknesses and strengths. They have to look around sometimes to find those
strengths. Pick up a copy of A Change in Altitude and see what you think. The setting
alone makes it worth reading.