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Stories from an alpine life—in the southern alps of Patagonia, that is, where a climber’s most common experience is pain and fear.

Crouch pretty much lives for Patagonia, that sere, inhospitable place of wild granite spires and weather straight from the Furious Fifties that is only too happy to ring you like a gong. Things here are elemental: you climb up and down vertical, ice-glazed needles thousands of feet high; otherwise, you camp out, play cards, drink, eat, and read, waiting for the godawful weather to break so you can climb up and down again, rarely reaching your objective, which only makes it that much sweeter when you do. There’s a tendency in these pages toward an overwrought response: “Climbers who gaze upon these wonders ache to unlock their secrets,” reveling in this “world of raw power, boundless possibility, infinite sky, impossible color, tremendous size, and utter, overwhelming silence.” He wonders if he’s worthy of such astonishing beauty, “and the certain, damning answer is no.” But when he catches his breath, stops staring at his navel or agog at the landscape, Crouch can turn out a crisp climbing narrative, charged with all the merciless circumstances that attend Patagonian alpinism. Such are the odds against gaining a peak, so dogged is he in his pursuit and willing to suffer the innumerable miseries, so enthusiastic in simply putting climbing shoe to rock and ice—“I love everything about it without qualification. I love Patagonia, and I love to climb”—readers will be cheering this endearing lunk on, rapt as he matches his capabilities to the necessary execution. It is worth his stupefactive waxing before the sheer glory of the place to have these unvarnished moments of pure exhilaration.

Authentic alpine rambles, joyful and not a little bit lunatic.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-50434-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2001


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