American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Round Mystery Mountain

  • Book Reviews
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  • Publication Year: 1936

Round Mystery Mountain, by Sir Norman Watson and E. J. King. xii + 246 pages, 32 illustrations and 3 maps. London : Edward Arnold & Co., 1935. Price 15s.

Here is an enjoyable book, not pretending to be serious record of a scientific expedition, but rather the narrative of a journey undertaken in the spirit of an adventure, but with an entirely worthwhile purpose. After reading it one feels that the participants must have been well satisfied with the result of their trip, the principal object of which was to make the first high altitude crossing of the Coast Range of British Columbia in winter, on ski. Ski, however, played a minor rôle, saving perhaps one day of time on the Franklin Glacier, but no doubt adding greatly to the pleasure of those concerned. The party did no pioneering, as regards route finding, but when one realizes that they were all unfamiliar, both with the terrain and with the methods of western mountain travel, except for a very brief earlier visit by the leader in summer, one must credit them with a definite accomplishment. There are good illustrations, sketch maps, and an itinerary at the end (valuable in such a book), and an index.

The leader and backer, Sir Norman J. Watson, was fortunate in his choice of the professional members of the party, Emile Couttet of Chamonix for the mountain work, and the local men, Pete McCormick and assistants, for the approach. Weather seems to have been favorable much of the time. One member of the party was, we understand, greatly concerned with the supposed proximity of “ferocious” wild animals, but then for him, and perhaps even for the other uninitiated, that must have greatly heightened the sense of adventure !

The crossing of the Coast Range took just one month from Tatla Lake on March 18th to the head of Knight Inlet on April 19th, 1934. The actual crossing from the tongue of Scimitar Glacier on the east, to the Franklin tongue on the west took, after two weeks of preparation on the east side of Fury Gap, only three days and two nights. However, as one foreign reviewer of this book seems not to have gathered from the narrative, the skiing was but the climax of this adventure, and not as the sub-title of the book suggests, the daily routine.

The book is written not without a sense of humor. The authors, one feels, perhaps somewhat overrate in their own minds the importance of what they have accomplished, but the special dispatches to the London Times, referred to, are possibly more responsible for this feeling than the book itself. There is a freshness and thrill in the point of view, which can only be felt and expressed by people to whom such an experience is new. If there is therefore at times slight exaggeration one may just smile, because in this case it was all honestly intended. There is throughout the book the rather quaint viewpoint of the Englishman of 50 years ago out for a great adventure. Much is told for the benefit of a European reader which we might think unnecessary, but then it is the intimate details which entertain the average reader anyway, not the heavy facts. In other words, if one reads this book in the proper frame of mind, it is well worth while for the adequate and pleasing picture which it gives of the experiences of such a party. Certain that it does give a fair record and impression of a trip through that country. Only one other book, and that from a big-game hunter’s point of view, has appeared on the Coast Range.

H. S. H., Jr.

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