Alpine Pilgrimage, by Dr. Julius Kugy. Translated by H. E. G. Tyndale. 374 pages, 25 illustrations. London. John Murray, 1934. Price 12s.
Perhaps you have a corner of a shelf among your mountain books reserved for The Playground of Europe, Scrambles Among the Alps, My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus—the old de-pendables. Don’t you turn to it twice as often as to the big expedition books or the narratives of the modern daredevils? If you have such a shelf push something over and make a place on it for this one. Dr. Kugy’s book is the genuine and authentic vintage.
There are those who will find Alpine Pilgrimage unexciting. Its author believes that it is better to live on the mountains than to die on them. Here are no five-day bivouacs along the Peteret Ridge or hanging in ropes all night on Dolomite faces. It is an unpretentious record of climbs made, most of them, many years ago. They were, to a large extent and except for the pioneer work in the Julian Alps, repetitions of classic routes. They were made with guides.
And yet the book is one that stirs you and leads you on.
The reason for it is plain. Dr. Kugy is a great and simple soul who loves mountains with a passion that pervades every atom of his being. He cares so much that he could probably have made the subject exciting even if his writing lacked the charm that it most decidedly has.
The first section of the book is devoted to the Julian Alps. For that group, plainly visible from Dr. Kugy’s home in Trieste, he has the deepest affection. It has preoccupied him from childhood to old age and he knows it as a man knows his own yard. The Julians are, I suppose, new territory to most of us. To one who likes to study a new district this part of the book, with its accompanying map, offers the material for many well occupied evenings.
After a rather casual encounter with the Dolomites, for which he never particularly cared, Dr. Kugy goes on to the Western Alps. At the age of twenty-eight, in 1886, he came to Zermatt, making his entrance in the grand manner by a traverse of Monte Rosa. For nearly thirty years he came back season after season, going everywhere, but giving his chief attention to the Pennines and the peaks of Dauphiné. The climbs are well described and hold the interest whether or not one is familiar with the routes. His climbing career bridges the gap from the Golden Age to the modern. We see Mummery, Collie, Alexander Burgener, Daniel Maquignaz and many others of the stalwarts.
The book, which was first published in Germany ten years ago, has been well translated. The type is readable and the illustrations, although nothing out of the way, help the text.