Jerome's work is an amalgam of mountain ecology--people, creatures, geology, biology, and the processes which take mountains full circle from life to death, and again to life. From cocoa-chewing Andeans to krummholz and plate tectonics, it's a cram course in how life adapts, the Alps grow higher, the Cascades crumble and move ever westward, Icelandic volcanoes rise boiling out of the sea, and one more layer of ancient earth skin is rubbed from the back of the Appalachian chain. But there's an unresolved duality. Is it textbook or personal narrative? The answer lies somewhere between. The text somersaults between a clinical accounting of alpine ecology, one process piled after another (""Theoretical analysis has shown that a sphere with its upper layer under compression and its next underlayer under tension will fracture. . . ."") and Jerome's own hang-loose views of his love/hate relationship with mountains: skiing is good, winter chic is bad, mountaineering is ""strange."" In his introduction, the author acknowledges that he ""couldn't find any logical way to use the mountains. Which meant that I didn't seem to be able to get at them."" It shows.