Monday, January 17, 2011

Mountaineering Adventures, by Matt Doeden

Matt Doeden's Mountaineering Adventures was not on my top ten list to read before I move on Wednesday, but I'm running short of time, the book is short, and the library where I'm moving does not have it in their catalog. I'm sorry to say that I will not be bringing you Sir Hugh Boustead's The Winds of Morning, as planned. I'll have to find another copy at a later date.

Doeden's book is a mix of good and bad. It's a small tome that gives young readers an introduction to the mechanics, tools, and history of mountain climbing. After a quick recount of Hillary and Tenzing's final climb to the top of Everest, Doeden gets into the mechanics of climbing, discussing how expeditions work, the dangers of climbing and what to do about them, as well as the equipment used by climbers. I don't know how children will feel about it, but I found Doeden's style a bit short and repetitive, for example: "Mountain climbers stay at camps during long expeditions. They set up tents and unpack supplies at camps. They often cook food at their camps."

Doeden's early mountaineering history is a bit suspect, especially as regards Everest. He states that Mallory led the 1924 climbing team, and that Norton and Somervell turned back because they could not breath well. Perhaps these are half-truths, but they are still misleading. Totally wrong is Odell's viewing Mallory and Irvine for the last time from Base Camp as well as the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition discovering how high they climbed when its climbers found Mallory's body. Besides Everest, Doeden's statement that four of Whymper's teammates fell and died on the descent of the Matterhorn does not quite represent the fact that Whymper's and Croz's parties joined forces when they encountered each other on the mountain.

I appreciated Doeden's prose on Junko Tabei. Few books that I've read, children or adult, give her much space. I think this is largely due to there being no biography of her in English nor any translations of the many books on her in Japanese. Doeden gives the main details of her expedition (consisting of all women) to Everest, including the avalanche that nearly ended the expedition. Overall, Doeden's modern history of climbing chapter is quite well-researched, including entries on Reinhold Messner, Tomo Cesen, and Pete Athan's Millennium Climb of Everest.

He also has a chapter on both the 1996 Everest and 1995 K2 disasters. Doeden again oversimplifies here, and he groups Hall's and Fischer's groups as single expedition. Additionally, he gets the facts mixed up for the K2 disaster and says that Hargreaves summitted with her team of six climbers, and that she and a teammate died during the descent. His bit that follows on current climbing isn't too bad, and he ends with a list of resources for further research. Overall, I'm not sure I'd recommend this one.

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