Images d’Escalades, by André Roch. 14 pages of text, with 88 photographs. Lausanne: Editions Jean Marguerat, 1946.
André Roch has presented to mountaineering readers one of the finest collections of Alpine photographs ever made. Beautifully reproduced, these pictures are much more than a series of superb mountain scenes. They are just what the title claims, “Climbing Pictures.” This reviewer has seldom seen photographers that give a clearer picture of technical climbing difficulties. In many pictures it is possible to see climbers working their way up seemingly impossible routes and, although they focus the attention, they never dominate the picture. The mountains invariably dwarf climbers into proper perspective. The yawning gulfs below do not have to be imagined; they can be seen. Routes, many unbelievably difficult, are clearly described in complete captions beside each photograph and are of obvious interest to every mountaineer.
The photographs are without exception of great beauty. The numerous photographers who collaborated with André Roch to make this book possible were not content to stop their climbing for a mere moment to snap a shot. They must have had to go far out to the side or to the top of a neighboring gendarme to get the best possible spot for the picture. They must also have waited at length to get the right shadows and highlights. In several photographs wisps of cloud add enormously to the composition and impressiveness of the whole effect.
The few introductory pages give an intimate glimpse into the philosophy of a skilled mountaineer. André Roch begins by explaining the three phases involved in a great ascent. First is the preparation. The climber must work up to it gradually, training carefully on smaller mountains, then studying routes and planning the great climb itself. The ascent is the second phase, followed thirdly by memories of the day. The second portion of the introduction was particularly thrilling to this reviewer. Roch here describes his own passion for mountaineering and his feelings on a difficult lead. A climber becomes reassured, as he reads, that moments of nervousness and tension are experienced by all mountaineers, but this portion must be read to be fully appreciated.
H. Adams Carter