They Climbed the Alps, by Edwin Muller, Jr. Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, New York. Price $3.50.
Under the title “They Climbed the Alps”, Mr. Edwin Muller, Jr., has given a very interesting and often a dramatic account of the evolution of the art of mountaineering from the earliest attempts, when an awkward alpine stock and a small hatchet were the only weapons of offense, to the highly specialized technique of the modern climber.
The author has deftly strung together the story of the famous alpine ascents—Mt. Blanc, Matterhorn, Weisshorn, Grépon—and in the telling thereof, sometimes in his own words, often in the words of the climber himself, has given a vivid picture of the methods evolved in slowly overcoming these alpine giants. Whymper’s incomparable siege of the Matterhorn loses nothing in the retelling. Balmat, sleeping shelterless again and again on Mt. Blanc, toils up to its summit. Mummery, climbing up his famous crack on the Grépon; Tyndall, struggling against apparently hopeless odds on the Weisshorn; G. W. Young, ascending new and more difficult routes by methods little short of the miraculous—all are names to conjure with in mountaineering annals and so dramatic are the stories that one marvels anew at the endurance of the human spirit.
The book is not at all technical. The style is simple and direct and the illustrations well chosen to show the more perilous side of mountaineering. In the last chapter “Why They Do It,” the author attempts to explain that which to the laity is so often inexplicable—the ceaseless allure of the mountains to the climber.
“For certain brief snatches of time, a man may have glimpses of glory that are on a different level from the rest of living. To one it may happen when listening to Beethoven’s Fifth, to another when the birds come back in the spring, to most for moments when in love. They are never more than moments, gone as soon as realized, yet they are worth months of ordinary living. For a fleeting moment we feel that the kingdom of heaven is very near to us, that with only a little effort we could tear away the veil. … The man who climbs mountains knows that if he summons his courage and ventures up into the snows he will be rewarded somewhere by one of these moments of ecstasy. … And the memory of such moments is a precious jewel that he carries all of his life. His way may lead through dingy, sordid paths but with the mountains in his background he can never be thoroughly unhappy.”
M. H. S.