Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mountaineer, by Chris Bonington

Chris Bonington presents a photo essay of his climbing life in Mountaineer. The book reads like a series of climbing lectures, with presentations on focused areas of Bonington's adventures, such as his experiences on British cliffs, his short career of photojournalism, or his big Himalayan walls expeditions. In addition to his own experiences, he discusses how climbing has changed over his lifetime, including equipment, attitudes, professionalism, and group dynamics. His life and climbs cover an important range of climbing history, beginning with the working-class British cragsmen, the the highly-structured expedtions of the 50s through the 70s, to the transition to small teams tackling big Himalayn objectives in the 1980s. The photos are a well-taken, grand collection, from places few dare tread, whether the North Face of the Eiger, the West Buttress of K2, or the Southwest Face of Everest, to name only a few. This book is not to be confused with an autobiography, however, as the photos and essays stay focused on his climbs, and discuss very little of his life away from the mountains.

His Everest material is a large part of this book, as Everest played a large part in his life. Much of it is the standard fare previously published in his Everest books, covering his climbs on the Southwest Face, the Southeast Ridge, and the Northeast Ridge. It's still good stuff, but doesn't add much value to this book for the dedicated Bonington or Everest fan. It's pretty handy, however, to have a large collection all in one place. (See also Chris Bonington's Everest.)  I did notice some original stuff covering his 1985 Southeast Ridge climb, and I enjoyed seeing material from his more recent climbs of lower, but still imposing Himalayan peaks.

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