FACING THE EXTREME by Ruth Anne Kocour


One Woman's Story of True Courage, Death-Defying Survival, and Her Quest for the Summit
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 A storm-of-the-decade, bashing the slopes of Denali, holds climbing enthusiast Kocour ``hostage to the dark side of mountaineering''--and she holds readers hostage to the dark side of outdoors writing. Alaska's Denali is famous for its ferocious, quixotic storms. One such came to pay an extended visit with Kocour's team as they made camp halfway up the mountain. It blew for days on end, gusting to over 100 mph, ushering in a deep cold. As they lay tentbound, the frigid temperatures began to eat them (by journey's end, Kocour's skin was coming off in rotten slabs, her digits blackened with frostbite); and the climbers, three each stuffed into tents the size of a twin bed, slowly went bonkers. But when the storm provided a brief respite, they headed up, not down, tagged the summit, and raced more brutal weather heading back to safety. (Eleven climbers on other teams, not so lucky, went home in boxes.) Unfortunately, much of the writing here reads like something from a magazine called, say, ``Men's Challenge'': ``I had become . . . a mere speck of dust against the teeth of a savage Alaskan storm,'' and ``I had to cloak my emotions in an iron-clad armor of cold steel.'' Calling a campsite a ``scenic crevasse overlook'' is about as poetic as the book gets, and despite Kocour's claim to be raptured by a mountain's ``visuals,'' there is little delineation of landscape; the authors' appear far more interested in raunch: ``My face looked like dog meat,'' for instance, or the elegant ``I ventured beyond our tent walls only to take a dump.'' Hodgson (editor of Outdoor Retailer) should have done better. What might have been a story of mountain savvy, courage, and luck turns into an embarrassment of clichÇs. (photos, not seen) (Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-17942-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997


NonfictionDENALI'S HOWL by Andy Hall
by Andy Hall