Guest of the Soviets, by Joyce Dunsheath. London: Constable & Co., Ltd. 1959. 183 pages, illus. Price 18s.
This book is chiefly interesting to the reviewer, who himself visited the Soviet Union and the Caucasus in 1930, for the changes that have taken place in 27 years, and particularly the highly organized present day sport of mountaineering there, a great contrast to the earlier years.
Mrs. Dunsheath accompanied her husband who was attending an electrical engineering conference in Moscow. She was a guest of the government in the Caucasus where her official companion was Eugene Gippenreuter of the All-Union Sports Committee of the U.S.S.R. There were two separate visits, the first to the Western Caucasus. Flight from Moscow to Sukhumi on the Black Sea and local flight to Kluhory, followed by a rough bus trip brought them to Camp Dombai, a thoroughly organized climbing center. Here Safridju (The Tooth, 12,300 feet) was climbed with a small party. To the east could be seen Elbruz and Ushba, respectively about 40 and 60 miles away. Then, without explanation, Gippenreuter was recalled to Moscow and Mrs. Dunsheath returned to England, but later in the year the government’s invitation was renewed and she came back once again to climb Elbruz. The climb was made in October from a large, new hut "Refuge of Eleven” at 13,000 feet. (In 1930 the climb was done from the then hut at 9000 feet; 9500 up and down in 20 hours including four hours rest at 13,000 feet.) The weather was cold and more or less storming but with a second man, the three made the top, a none too pleasant experience. High wind, broken clouds, and a temperature estimated at 20 below centigrade forced them to start down, and the hut was regained with some difficulty.
Mrs. Dunsheath reports what most visitors to the Soviet Union have: the friendliness of the Russian people and their eagerness to meet outsiders. The book is well written and a welcome addition to the all too scarce information about the Caucasus and its people.
Henry S. Hall, Jr.