Again Switzerland, by Frank S. Smythe. 8vo., 248 pp., 33 illustrations and a map. London, 1947: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd. Price, 20/-.
Mr. Smythe has written a book describing his first trip to Switzerland, after the enforced absence of the seven long war years. He went over in February of 1946, one of the first of the British to revisit Switzerland, for a skiing holiday at Adelboden, in the Lötschenthal, at Verbiers and Zermatt. The names of the runs he made and the mountains he climbed are almost household words; he makes us see again the powder snow—yes, the wind-slab and crust, too—and feel the crisp air and glowing sun. We also see the inns, the inn-keepers, and the other people almost as if we were there.
Toward the end of his stay, in late March, he did some ski- mountaineering; he climbed the Breithorn, followed the Haute Route, and made a solitary traverse of the Oberland. There are no tours de force here; in fact, it is perhaps not a very impressive list of achievements for a man of Mr. Smythe’s caliber, and experience in the Himalaya and elsewhere. With the exception of his trip alone across the Oberland glaciers, thousands of ski-mountaineers could make, and indeed have made, similar expeditions. We suspect that only the times persuaded Mr. Smythe to write a book on such slight material. But the fact that it deals with the familiar and wellloved scenes of Switzerland, and with climbing experiences more or less within the common reach, does not detract from the charm and allurement of his book. For Mr. Smythe’s style is very vivid, and he writes with such an immense quantity of detail—those little well-known details that had perhaps dropped out of mind until he recalls them so explicitly—that Switzerland is revivified for us. I, for one, find nearly unbearable the longing that he arouses in me to get back to Switzerland myself. Shall I say, “Don’t read this book unless you are able to go to Switzerland in the very near future—it will just make you homesick”?
Of course, the illustrations are excellent, as might be expected, and I wish there were some way we could see more of the pictures he took.
As a final word, let me say that I think it a fine thing for a man of Smythe’s standing to come forward in both word and deed in favor of solitary mountaineering in its proper place, in the face of the unrelieved condemnation of this phase of the sport which is the fashion among British and American climbers.
Miriam E. Underhill