The Mountain World 1962/63. Published by the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research. Directed by Hans Richard Muller. English version edited by Malcolm Barnes. London: George Allen and Unwin, Ltd.; Chicago: Rand McNally and Co., 1964. 240 pages, 70 plates (12 in color). Price $6.95.
Once again we wish that this book would appear annually, as formerly. The publishers, director and editor are to be complimented on another tremendous edition. Having exhausted my superlatives, I can only say, "On to the contents.” The articles are in the order: Europe, Asia, North and South America and Antarctica.
Three grand shots of the North Face of the Matterhorn by Bradford Washburn introduce an inspiring account of its first winter ascent written by Hilti von Allmen. This article, in only four and a half pages, focuses on the inner spirit of the climber: his philosophy, his idea of comradeship and his view on adversity. To illustrate: how do you break the news to your companion high on the face of the mountain that you have lost your crampons ? Truly a gem!
The book offers an extensive article for speleologists. "The Exploration of Hell Hole,” by Alfred W. Bogli, with six photos. The exploration of the limestone cave in the Muotatal in Switzerland is complete with syphons and rationing of food till low water allows escape, a combination of terrors to shake the stoutest of hearts. For the lightheaded there are four (one overleaf) photos rounding out a factual narrative of ballooning across the Alps by Fred Dolder. There is a comprehensive yet easily understood article on avalanches and their causes by the specialist, André Roch.
Nick Clinch’s article on Masherbrum, written with great depth of feeling, is a tribute to human endurance. Some of the highlights are tense moments in an avalanche, fire in the high-camp tent, and the second team’s ascent of the peak followed by an overnight descent without adequate rappel ropes.
The gallant Indian attempt on Mount Everest, spearheaded by Gombu, Kumar and Sonam, stopped at 28,300 feet by the wind and driving snow, and their decision to turn back, is in the highest traditions of mountaineering. They deserved the summit.
More fortunate was the Austrian Expedition to Distaghil Sar, 7885 meters. A way was found on the south flank through conditions of severe cold and deep snow.
The Hillary Expedition, including the wintering at Silver Hut, the first ascent of the incomparable Amadablam, and the attempt on Makalu to 27,000 feet, complete with evacuations of ill and injured, is covered in great detail by Dr. Michael Ward. I decry references to "low altitude” Sherpas cropping up in the literature — better to call them: experienced or inexperienced, skilled or unskilled. For an article on the frustrations of reaching unexplored mountains, John Tyson’s mapping expedition to western Nepal is a delight.
The grimmest tale concerns the ascent of the Diamir Flank of Nanga Parbat by three members of Karl Herrligkoffer’s party, ending in the death of Siegi Löw. Why did the three summit climbers, after a bivouac at 26,510 feet choose to continue the descent unroped through blinding snow? At the moment of Löw’s fall, he was 600 feet above the other two climbers and suffering from dizzy spells. A shame that tragedy should mar an otherwise magnificent effort. Less a strain on the readers’ nerves is the first ascent of beautiful Pumori by Gerhard Lenser via an intricate route, which bears out the old dictum that you have to rub noses with the peak before you know whether it will go.
Sad is the tale of the English-Soviet Pamir Expedition which resulted in the death of the brilliant writer-mountaineer, Wilfred Noyce, on Pik Garmo. Malcolm Slesser’s phrases are delightful; for example on the rotten rock of Pik Patriot, "like climbing a set of library shelves using the books as handholds.” And again, on the weaknesses of flesh and spirit on Pik Kommunisma, "It was curious that altitude took Nicol and me in different ways. It dulled his mind, it sapped my vitality. Nicol had an unholy determination to make the summit and he took me with him. In a way we made a good team. He provided the determination, I the brains!” Of interest to climbers is the diet of the Soviet members: tinned chicken, caviar, and kash (semolina porridge) upon which mighty deeds are done.
A new route on the southeast ridge of Mount McKinley is described by Samuel Silverstein, with a daring summit dash crowning a fine team effort.
The Stauning Alps of northeastern Greenland are given detailed coverage by two articles; Malcolm Slesser’s spanning two trips, and James Clarkson’s. Among the climbs of the former the ascent of the southeast ridge of the Hjorespids in shirtsleeves proves delightful. A question is raised about the "Black Death,” a curious form of black lichen on the rocks which, when wet or iced, provides no adhesion for Vibram soles. This tour de force took 29 hours; the climbers suffered from lack of sleep rather than fatigue. A hide-and-seek game for a missing supply dump winds up successfully with the "birdwatchers rescuing the mountaineers.”
Brazilian, Domingos Giobbi, takes us to the Caullaraju system of the south end of the Cordillera Blanca. Oldtimers who remember Douglas Busk’s The Delectable Mountains will be pleased to know that he has found some more delectable mountains in the Sierra Nevada de Merida, Venezuela, albeit somewhat flawed by progress in the form of a funicular.
Albert Bauer writes on the history of the Kerguelen Islands in the South Indian Ocean accompanied by remarkable air photos of unclimbed Mont Ross, 6230 feet. His concluding remarks contain a minor error: H. W. Tilman’s pilot cutter Mischief is referred to as an aeroplane. William Long offers a scholarly geological piece on the Ohio Range (formerly the Horlick Mountains) of Antarctica. An ascent was made of Mount Glossopteris (named for the fossils found in the shales), and the studies make an assist to the theory of continental drift. The Mountain World concludes with Anders Bolinder’s "Chronology of Himalayan Expeditions, 1960-62,” which continues Marcel Kurz’s important work on this subject.
In conclusion, I found several captions to be weak, even inadequate. For example, try to locate the North Summit of Mount McKinley in Plate 58 opposite page 145. The color prints are outstanding and do much to enhance the quality of the book. I sympathize with those who had to select the articles to be included, but many climbers will be disappointed that accounts of some remarkable climbs accomplished during this period were omitted.