Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mountain Journeys, edited by James P. Vermeulen

James P. Vermeulen compiles an American'-focused anthology of climbing book excerpts in Mountain Journeys: Stories of Climbers and Their Climbs. He organizes his excerpts by what part of the climb they relate, starting with five essays on the need or call to climb (including excerpts from Benuzzi's No Picnic on Mount Kenya, and Galen Rowell's High and Wild), and then following the phases of a climb. For preparations, he includes part of Clinch's A Walk in the Sky, that relates his hurried gathering of materials and climbers for the first ascent of Hidden Peak, and Tom Patey's "A Walk with Whillans," among others. In the section headed "Trials and Tragedy," he picks four classics of American mountaineering literature, Davidson's Minus 148 Degrees, Houston and Bates' The Savage Mountain, Craig's Storm and Sorrow in the High Pamirs, and Roberts' Mountain of My Fear. For "Summits" Vermeulen included Julie Tullis' and Kurt Diemberger's 1984 alpine-style ascent of Broad Peak from her Clouds from Both Sides, a rare treat of an ascent of a South American waterfall from David Nott's Angels Four, and Rick Ridgeway's account of Jim Wickwire's night out near the summit of K2 from The Last Step (see also Wickwire's Addicted to Danger). "Back Into the World" includes a motley assortment, from Gene Mason's return from the snows of McKinley, to Herzog's reminder of how remote Nepal once was in Annapurna, to (this one seemed to be the odd story out, due to its age) Whymper's tragic descent of the Matterhorn.

Regarding Everest, Vermeulen includes two book excerpts: Tom Hornbein's Everest: The West Ridge and Tenzing and Ullman's Tiger of the Snows. Hornbein's excerpt starts with Hornbein and Unsoeld at the summit and works its way to the sunrise after their bivouac (good standard fair). We read about Tenzing after his climb, from the treatment he receives in the Western Cwm by his fellow Sherpas, to his harassment by political intriguers just outside Kathmandu, to his trip to London to be honored by the new queen.

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