Mountain Rescues by Helen Orlob. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1963. 176 pages, 46 illustrations. Price $3.50.
This is a book for early ’teen-agers; the first of what will probably be an ever-growing number of volumes of semi-factual accounts of mountain rescues. No doubt it was inevitable that the popular authors would discover this field of volunteer endeavor, which has always been plagued by lurid accounts in the press. The volume created quite a stir in mountain rescue circles following its appearance last fall, reactions varying from enthusiasm to antipathy. The primary objection seemed to be a feeling that accounts lacked accuracy, and in some instances were directly misleading. A secondary objection was the impression that the volume leaves of "heroism” — the emphasis on medals and awards given by various agencies (not volunteer mountain rescue units).
As might be expected, I approached the book with some misgivings. It is relatively easy for the well informed to pick accounts of rescues apart detail by detail, and I must admit that in at least one instance I could hardly recognize a rescue in which I took part. However mountain accidents and rescues are somewhat akin to automobile accidents. They are individual experiences for participants, and frequently those involved recount widely varying tales of the happenings that take place. Helen Orlob seems to have made an honest and extensive effort to obtain the facts, and the "facts” related by some do not necessarily agree with the "facts” remembered by others.
No doubt there is more emphasis on the "heroic” than most rescuers would prefer, but as a general accounting of the growth of the mountain rescue movement in the western United States the book is essentially accurate in spirit. The selected incidents in the last fifteen years that it covers give insight into the growth of the movement, from early organization, to the acquisition of technical rescue equipment, to elaborate electronic communication systems, to the advent of the helicopter and its revolutionary effects on the field, and finally to the ability to apply and coordinate all available resources on the level of expeditionary rescue.
If you can discount the heroics and accept this book for what it is, a book for young people, you will find Mountain Rescues to be the first available reasonably accurate account of the development of organized mountain rescue on our continent. It is to be recommended as an introduction to the complexities of the field.
George R. Sainsbury