Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mountain, by Sandy Hill

Sandy Hill, survivor of the 1996 Everest tragedy, presents a photobook of some of the most beautiful images of the world's high places in Mountain. The book is large in scope, with a hefty size and hundreds of photos, and is a bit much to take in all at once, as I tried to do. A mountaineer or a mountain lover could easily dwell on some of these photos for minutes or hours, as the quality of printing and the level of detail is quite high. I enjoyed tracing imaginary paths through crevasse fields, like mazes, and searching for the small details that put the peaks in perspective. Hill picks a collection that focuses on the human relationship to mountains, with many images of climbers dangling from ropes and mountaineers scaling the heights, in addition to skiers and mountain architecture. Even many of the images without people are often of peaks and places with a special connection humanity, such as Mont Blanc, Mount Robson, McKinley, or Vinson. Though this collection is eye-catching for any audience, aficionados of mountaineering history will appreciate the breadth of this collection (both in time period and geography), and the importance, in addition to the allure, of many of these photos. If this collection has a fault, it might be its American focus, as Ed Cooper gets plenty of attention (though his images are splendid), and American climbers and peaks cover more pages than any other single region. Otherwise, it could easily be the dream collection of an imagined mountaineering photo museum.

Everest figures prominently in the book, as it has in Sandy Hill's life. She credits her 1994 attempt of Everest via the Kangshung Face as a peak in her emotional connection to mountains, and her 1996 summit climb (with Scott Fisher's Mountain Madness crew) nearly cost her her life. The book contains several evocative images of the world's highest mountain, as well as several famous photos from its climbing history. There were a couple new photos for me from Everest's history: one of Ruttledge sighting the mountain with a telescope during the trek through Tibet, taken by Smythe, and a nice image of Hillary from the 1953 climb, taken during the approach through Nepal. Jimmy Chin's modern photographs of Everest impressed me with their scale and detail.

Do find this book! You're going to like it.

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