Mountains and Men, by Wilfrid Noyce. 160 pages, with four maps and 17 illustrations. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1947. 18,/-.
Ten years ago, when Wilfrid Noyce was an undergraduate at King’s and the editor of Cambridge Mountaineering, 1938, he was already known for his brilliance. He had achieved remarkable feats on the rocks of Wales and the Lake District; he had “.finished” Tryfan, with J. M. Edwards, for the Climbers’ Club guidebook; and he had made, over several seasons, impressive ascents on divers great ridges of the Oberland and Valais. In the intervening years, which evidently have brought no diminution of the brilliance or the love of hills long familiar, he has been farther afield, to Garhwal and Kashmir and Sikkim; and now he is editor of the Himalayan Journal and author of a delightful volume of reminiscences entitled Mountains and Men.
The author’s preface modestly asserts that only one claim can be made for this book — “that it adds a little, a very little, to that tradition of very personal sentiment to which a line of great writers has left us heirs.” As if in conversation with a thoughtful man, inclined to talk a little bookishly, one listens to recollections and reflections: the nature of the climber, the “anatomy of pleasure,” the experience of falling. The author has suppressed, not infrequently, what he may consider barren detail. Books and journals and maps that helped to counteract his reticences soon hemmed in this reviewer’s chair. The collateral searchings—need one say?— were pleasant, too; and the happy impression left by Mountains and Men was, if anything, heightened. One comes with a sense that the right sort of person was there to the entry in “Sikkim Diary” for September 24th:* “Again what luck, to have climbed Pauhunri, 23,385 feet, and just over a fortnight after leaving Delhi. But really amusingly unorthodox.”
D. A. Robertson, Jr..
* The year was 1945. Himalayan Journal, XIII (1946), 62, 70-72.