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Northwest Mountaineering

Northwest Mountaineering by Edward A. Rossit. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1965. 206 pages. 14 photographs in black and white. $5.50.

The book jacket describes this hardbound volume as "an instruction book for the beginning and intermediate climbers … a distillation of the wisdom and experience gained in many years of climbing …” Of greater significance, however, is the author’s more pertinent admission that he is "too far gone” to become a real mountaineer, but he enjoys talking to those who climb the higher and more difficult peaks of the Northwest. In this reviewer’s opinion, Edward Rossit should have learned considerably more of his subject before embarking upon a book under such an all inclusive title; he has entered a field of technical writing in which he obviously lacks both a minimum of personal experience and a desire for more than superficial research. The author’s introductory discussion of the increasing popularity of climbing in the Northwest is perhaps more accurately an explanation of his reasons for writing the book:…the availability of a growing market of neophyte mountaineers willing to purchase a volume so impressively titled.

The book’s major appeal will be to the lay reader who desires only a superficial treatise on climbing terms and techniques, and a very generalized coverage of the peaks and routes easily accessible to the tourist- climber. Even with this, however, chapter organization and content reveal incomplete and frequently erroneous concepts of current mountaineering practices. The author is apparently unaware of existing publications, guidebooks and maps that could have served as reference material; it is readily evident that he failed to seek editorial assistance from more authoritative climbers and/or mountaineering clubs.

Those who enjoy "zesty humor” sprinkled throughout the text will appreciate such offerings as "the ice ax is a 'pike,’ therefore mountaineering is piking and mountaineers are pikers.” However, unintentionally, Rossit also contributes the following gems: a good smearing of deodorant ¼-inch thick under the armpits "should last for days”; a rucksack is preferable for flat trail hiking, whereas a packboard is more desirable for delicate balance climbing; mountaineers are a constipated bunch owing to a characteristic dehydration from sweating; National Park Service entrance fees vary from year to year theoretically, but are stable at $1.00; and "Red Mtn., like the planet Mars, is reddish in color.” A prime case of audacity is Rossit’s continual reference to Glacier Peak as "K-3,” based upon his contention that "like K-2 in the Himalayas, it is remote and hidden, a mysterious and glamorous mountain.” Further, in reference to long-named Kennedy Glacier and Kennedy Hot Springs on "Glacier Peak (K-3),” he explains, “… the Democrat machine is very strong in Washington !”

Chapter headings of major climbing areas belie the paucity of information contained, as only perfunctory descriptions are given of common routes on tourist-popular peaks. Frequently, a route description covers in detail the highway approach, but becomes vague when the peak is reached. Little reference is made to maps, and none at all to either Climber’s Guide to the Cascade and Olympic Mountains of Washington or Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills. A list of climbs in major passes appears to have been a product of rapid scanning of topo maps for peaks located nearest the highways; few of these summits rate mention as popular ascents. The author’s inclusion of meters with feet for all peak elevations suggests that the book is to reach overseas markets.

The book jacket has a handsome cover photograph of Mount Rainier at sunset. This and other photos are credited to either the U. S. Forest Service or to the Washington State Department of Commerce and Economic Development. A more personal touch might have been achieved by the use of photographs taken by the author or his climbing companions.

Dee Molenaar