From a former Sierra Club mountaineering leader, philosophical, introspective essays on ``the sacrament of climbing.'' Reid traces his 25-year involvement with climbing to his happening on, at age 16, a copy of Sir John Hunt's The Conquest of Everest. Over the years, his climbs have included Castle Peak in Colorado, the Gila in New Mexico, and the Tsoodzil, one of six mountains sacred to the Navajo of the Southwest. In preparation for climbing ``the mountain of blue-green turquoise,'' Reid consulted Bennie Silversmith, a medicine man, to learn the proper, respectful way to approach the ``female...water mountain.'' He ascended Tsoodzil singing ``Mountain of beauty, Mountain of trees,'' and bearing gifts of silver and wood. Meanwhile, his deep respect for nature and his belief in humankind's wrong-headed, rationalistic ``objectification'' of animals, forests, rivers, and mountains bring him to repeated reference to Thoreau and the Transcendentalists and, more recently, Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac. While his philosophical discourses are often self-referential-and he does prattle on about death and mysticism-they have a rhapsodic (and irresistible) eloquence when they come from direct observation and his experiences on mountains. The best example is his tracking and ``remembering'' of the howl of ``Old Lefty,'' a wolf dead nearly 70 years. He recounts the painful slaying of the legendary wolf near Castle Peak by a hunter named Bert Hegewa, juxtaposing the story with a heart-rending catalogue of animals slaughtered by government decree. His argument here, that pioneer America was motivated by greed and not by love or need of land, is persuasive. When Reid avoids the overly romantic, and downplays maintain-climbing as ``the practice of the ascetic arts,'' he is really quite good and often moving.
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