Email this review


A collection of 100 articles on climbing, spanning 40 years, originally published in England and culled by the former editor of Mountain magazine from publications both well-known--at least in climbing circles--and obscure. Not surprisingly there is a healthy (perhaps disproportionate) dose of writing on British and Scottish climbing--though some of it is by bona fide Legendary Figures (e.g., Robin Smith and Jimmy Marshall). But this is a massive book, and if deadpan descriptions of gripping ascents on British rock are not your cup of tea, fear not: there's much more. The expedition genre is represented by over a dozen articles, including Doug Scott's account of his high bivouac on Everest with Dougal Haston after the first ascent of the Southwest Face, Al Read and Lou Reichardt's account of the avalanche tragedy which killed seven climbers on the 1969 American Dhaulagiri expedition, and Scott (again) on his crawl down the Ogre in Pakistan with two (yes) broken legs. You want the Hard Men? They're here: Robbins (on the Tis-sa-ack route on Half Dome in Yosemite), Chouinard (on ethics), Haston (an excerpt from Eiger Direct). Fittingly, in a sport where death is a statistical reality, editor Wilson devotes an entire section to ""Epics, Risk, Falling, Death, Obituary and Retirement""--the natural extension of what Harold Drasdo (""Margins of Safety"") calls the gratification-safety dilemma, the fact that the sport of climbing is not fully satisfying and cathartic unless the climber maintains ""a degree of uncertainty as to the eventual outcome."" The latter phrase was coined by Lito Tejeda-Flores, from whose classic 1967 essay on climbing ethics--the matching of style to objective--the title of this anthology was borrowed. In few other sports is the relationship among danger, style, and satisfaction so clear and so central, and many of the best articles in this diverse collection work by underscoring that simple point. Hours of absorbing material for anyone who's ever climbed.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1980
Publisher: Sierra Club--dist. by Scribners