Thursday, August 25, 2011

Many Mountains to Climb, by Stacy Allison

Stacy Allison, the first US woman to climb Mount Everest, turns her climbing life into allegory in Many Mountains to Climb. She takes episodes from her life, in approximate chronological order, and reflects on the lessons to be learned from each, based on the title of the chapter. She focuses especially on her two Everest expeditions, one in 1987 to the North Face under Scott Fischer and another under Jim Frush and Don Goodman during the 1988 post-monsoon circus in Nepal. The climbs conveniently contrast, with poor organization, teamwork, and weather in the first and a good overall climb (at least for her) in the second. Her advice is a mixture of personal, relationship, and corporate, and seems to be distilled from her many speaking engagements.

I'm not sure I liked this book terribly much. Though the book had order based on the time line of Allison's life, I felt that the reflections lacked focus or some sort of overarching principal that brought them together. Each of the sections has a number of different suggestions for the reader that loosely fit under the heading of the chapter, and she only rarely goes into detail on them. In contrast, Gary P. Scott's Summit Strategies has a set of ten lessons that are meant to build upon one another and are specific and detailed. Her narrative, on the other hand, was well-written and quite a bit more personal and personable than in her autobiography, Beyond the Limits. Though there's considerably less detail in this book than her biography, the writing is more natural and I hope a better reflection of the author's personality, since in Beyond the Limits, she seems to have several, some unpleasant.

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