Saturday, March 12, 2011

High & Wild, by Galen Rowell

I've been frustrated again by the writing of Galen Rowell, this time his anthology, High & Wild. It's all quite nice writing---thoughful, articulate, and great photographs to boot, but I really want to read about his 1985 Everest West Ridge expedition, and it's not here either. (I've previously covered Rowell's Mountain Light.) High & Wild, a series of articles from across his career, is the closest thing we'll get to an autobiography of Galen Rowell. I recommend picking up the third, Spotted Dog Press, edition, as it has ten more articles than the first, and five more than the second editions. The majority of his adventures take place in the Sierra Mountains of California, with additional trips to the remote mountains of Alaska, Canada, Patagonia, and the Himalaya.

Rowell's adventures are often with other Everest-associated climbers, including (in this book) Ned Gillette, John Roskelly, David Roberts, Peter Hackett (1981 American Medical Research Expedition summiteer), and Michael Graber (from Rowell's West Ridge climb). Also, Everesters including Jim Bridwell and Reinhold Messner make cameos in the book. Before Ned Gillette made his circumambulation of Everest in Everest Grand Circle, he and Rowell made a glacial circuit of Mount McKinley in a similar fashion. They also pair up for a winter traverse of the Karakorum in between. After these wild alpine excursions, the only occasionally-snowy trip around Everest must have been a bit of a let down to the professional skier Gillette. The Khumbu region gets decent coverage in this book from Rowell's first ascent of Cholatse, along with Roskelly and Hackett, in alpine-style. He also comments on the massive Russian expedition that concurrently attempts the Southeast Ridge route on Everest.

There are two photographs of Everest in this book. The first appears next to the Foreword, with a misty and mysterious Everest lurking behind clouds from a perspective somewhere in Nepal. There is a rainbow halo around the shadow of the photographer, such as described in Ricart de Mesones' Qomolangma. The second is a twilight view of the peak, along with Lhotse and Makalu taken during the author's Cholatse climb from the team's bivouac high on the mountain.

If anybody knows of a book that tells of Rowell's 1985 West Ridge climb, please let me know! I feel like I've been reading my way away from Everest the past couple of books. I'll play it safe and stick to things with Everest in the title for the next few.

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