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The Steepest Mountain: The New Zealand Andes Expedition, 1960

The Steepest Mountain: The New Zealand Andes Expedition, I960, by Lloyd E. Warburton. R. J. Cuthill, Publisher, New Zealand, 1964. 136 pp. Illustrations. $3.50.

Nevado Cayesh had been described as "the steepest mountain in the Cordillera Blanca and unmatched for its savage steepness” by Egeler, and by Terray as "that awful rock spine of Cayesh looked impossible.” This was the objective of a party of six New Zealanders, one a doctor, led by Lloyd Warburton in July, 1960. A Swiss party had given up on it the year before. While completing the story on his return home, the author was stricken with a fatal illness and the book was published posthumously by his friends in the New Zealand Alpine Club in 1964.

This book is, in the reviewer’s opinion, one of the best accounts of an Andean climb. The style is unsophisticated, spiced with humor, crisp, straight to the point, without unnecessary verbiage and reads easily. The author was observant of everything around him. He often quotes the members of his party, and conversations among them.

Cayesh (18,770 feet) is near Huaraz, and the approach is therefore short, leaving the energies of the party, after acclimatization, for the actual climb (the last 3,000 feet.) Backed by their friends and some firms in New Zealand, and with assistance from the New Zealand Alpine Club and the Mount Everest Foundation, the party was determined to succeed if humanly possible. They did experience severe acclimatization problems. From Base Camp at 15,800 feet they made two high climbing camps. There were avalanches, rock falls, and collapses of snow and ice formations. The high ice was "frozen hard, but very porous, like filigree.” The last thousand feet averaged 70° with even steeper pitches. Being New Zealanders, they were all good on snow and ice. They had to be to survive the terrific climb. They worked perfectly as a team. Three finally reached the top on July 21. With a few days to spare they then had a try at the "unrelenting” then unclimbed east ridge of Huascaran. Two almost made it, reaching nearly 22,000 feet, but time did not permit another attempt.

The book is to be recommended highly. It was published in a limited, edition, but we can hope that it is still available.

Henry S. Hall, Jr.