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The American Alpine Club's Handbook of American Mountaineering

The American Alpine Club’s Handbook of American Mountaineering, edited by Kenneth A. Henderson. 234 pages, including bibliography, and 150 pen and ink illustrations. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942.

The American Alpine Club should be proud of its Handbook of American Mountaineering so ably compiled by Henderson and his many helpers. It does what it sets out to do and does it in a clear and practical way. Unlike many climbing manuals it does not become so involved in describing highly skilled techniques required by the most severe ice and rock work that it forgets the things the average climber wants to know. Double rope technique, rope tension traverses and other maneuvers described in the greatest detail by many foreign handbooks are generally restricted to a minimum, so that more attention can be paid to cooking, camping, horse packing, sledging, mountain weather, and personal hygiene, subjects that in many such books never come into their own. Even greater emphasis on such subjects, the sort of knowledge needed in expedition work, would not be amiss.

In almost any such piece of work controversial techniques appear, but the number of such places is fortunately very small. The explanations of various techniques of mountain life are readily shown by frequent illustrations. It is regretted, however, that the artist was not more familiar with the problems.

Lest anyone feel that skiing has been slighted, let it be said that this handbook discusses skiing only as an adjunct to mountaineering and not as a sport in itself. Actually no ski mountaineering is discussed at all. The variety of subjects that are examined, however, is striking: Stigler stretchers, use of roughlocks, lightweight radio sets, the diamond hitch, Cheyne-Stokes breathing, Prusik knots, riding the ouija board, acclimatization, 19-point crampons, and so forth.

As many of the editor’s assistants were called away by war work, it is a tribute to him and to his chief helper, Terris Moore, that the book was completed and published in its present form. The American Alpine Club should be proud of its Handbook of American Mountaineering, a volume any of us should be glad to cram into a rucksack or stuff into a jacket pocket next time we hie off into the back country.