The Mountain World 1954, edited by Marcel Kurz for the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research. 224 pages, with 64 illustrations, 9 maps, and three sketches. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954. Price, $6.00.
The Mountain World is a most interesting and useful summary of articles on mountaineering done recently in various parts of the world, principally in 1953. In a year so notable for climbing on the earth’s highest peaks, it is only natural that three-quarters of the volume is devoted to Himalayan mountaineering, with one-quarter on the ascent of Mt. Everest itself. There are articles of particular interest for Americans, especially Dr. Charles Houston’s well written account of the expedition to K2 and, in Marcel Kurz’s “Himalaya 1951-1952” (the only portion of the book not covering mountaineering in 1953), the summary of Robert Dodson’s climbing on Sugarloaf in Sikkim, the Houston Expedition to Mt. Everest, and the French on Nanda Devi. The latter will catch the attention particularly of those of us who were on the mountain in 1936. The thrilling photograph taken by the Poles from the summit of East Nanda Devi, looking toward the main peak along the ridge they hoped to traverse, merely strengthens the reviewer’s belief that this was no practicable route.
In a book written by numerous authors and originally in various languages the style could indeed be varied or poor. This is for the most part not the case. Wilfred Noyce’s “Everest 1953” and Ruedi Schatz’s “Expedition to Dhaulagiri 1953” are written with real literary competence. The latter article does not give the impression of being a translation. “The Ascent of the Nun” by Pierre Vittoz is particularly enhanced by references to spritely conversations with the Sherpas, recounted by someone who apparently knows their language perfectly, can catch their delightful humor and light spirit and even encourage it. More pedestrian but still of great interest are the accounts of the Germans and Austrians on Nanga Parbat, the Japanese on Manaslu, the Swiss in the mountains of the Arctic, and Busk on Ruwenzori. Only in the Arctic accounts did the translator fail to give us flowing, idiomatic, and, in a few cases, grammatical English.
The volume has a very attractive format and is well printed. The numerous photographs, seven of which are double paged, are exceptionally good to begin with and are excellently reproduced. There are also several interesting maps. The “Chronology of Himalayan Expeditions,” found at the end of the book, is a very useful continuation of the table which records all known ascents in that part of the world.
Although this is only the second edition in English of this useful book, readers of German and French will recall that this is actually the ninth edition. The book is now published in
Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, England and the United States.
H. Adams Carter