From prolific mountaineering writer Roberts (Devil’s Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy, 2008, etc.), a well-crafted biography of “the greatest mountaineer in Alaskan history.”
Because the author knows the world of climbing so well, as both practitioner and chronicler, he brings an insider’s perspective to this life of mountaineer and photographer Bradford Washburn (1910–2007). As a longtime friend of his subject, Roberts writes with measured authority about Washburn as a character, especially his overwhelming passion, impatience and stubbornness. In describing Washburn’s vast explorations in Alaska and the Yukon, his extraordinary number of first ascents and the sharpening of the “increasingly virtuosic exercises in the fast-and-light style he had invented,” Roberts avoids hagiography—no small feat given Washburn’s prodigious talents. Not only did he fill in many blank areas on maps of the northern regions of North America, Washburn brought great flair to the art of cartography and aerial photography, as well as museum administration—he transformed “the moribund New England Museum of Natural History into the eventually world-renowned Boston Museum of Science.” Though unadorned, Roberts’s style effectively captures the suspense and danger of Washburn’s adventures.
A thorough and admiring portrait.