Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Climb, edited by Kerry & Cameron Burns

Kerry L. Burns and Cameron M. Burns pull together a short collection of classic and relatively new ascents in Climb: Tales of Man Versus Boulder, Crag, Wall, and Peak. It is an anthology from a wide range of years, from Petrach's ascent of Mount Ventoux in 1336 to a 2006 work by Paul Ross, and, as the title suggests, covers a wide range of styles of climbing. The editors did assemble pieces that, with one exception, explore the inner workings of the climber, tying together a seemingly unruly set. Their finding older works, such as Leslie Stephen's essay on the Schreckhorn and Isabella Lucy Bird's of Longs Peak, that defied convention (however conservatively) by giving more than just a dispassionate route narrative, impressed me. For the most part, the essays are taken from climbing journals or excepted from books, though Ross' "A Tale of Two Epics" is previously unpublished. It's an overall entertaining set, characterized by passion, humor, and determination rather than death and near-misses.

Mike Thompson writes about his experience with Bonington's 1975 Everest Southwest Face expedition in the final chapter, "Out with the Boys Again." Originally published in Mountain magazine in 1976, the piece gives a lot of the interpersonal details and humor that are missing from Bonington's official account, Everest: The Hard Way. He discusses the separation of the expedition into A and B teams for the trek to the mountain and the development and dissipation of both official and underground authority. (Note that he is an anthropologist.) He discusses the more humorous aspects of his fellow climbers' personalities, provides some anecdotes, and notes the heavy absence of Don Whillans. He narrates in short prose his own role in the climb, and ends the piece after his climb to Camp 6 to support the first summit attempt, before things got dramatic and somewhat messy. It's a bit of a relief to read an account by someone who doesn't take a Bonington climb too seriously! (For a serious contrast, one of Ross' epics details a climb with Bonington, Whillans, and MacInnes on the Bonatti Pillar of the Dru.)

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