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Ce Monde Qui N'Est Pas Le Nôtre

Ce Monde Qui N’Est Pas Le Nôtre, by Robert Tezénas du Montcel. Paris: Gallimard, 1965. 201 pages. Price: 10 F.

This slim volume by the former president of the Groupe de Haute Montagne (G.H.M.) of which he has been a member since 1924, is most refreshing reading in a mechanical age of crowded cable cars and Alpine summits teeming with humanity. Robert Tezénas du Montcel achieved his major climbs between the two wars. In this book he shows us his discoveries of the mountain world, his first palpitating meeting with those Olympian personages, the members of the G.H.M., his adoption into the fraternity and a few of the outstanding moments in his climbing career. He takes us with him on the first ascent of the north slope of the col de Blaitière, a moonlight ascent of the southwest couloir of the Aiguille Verte, a descent of the Brouillard ridge of Mont Blanc. The last chapter shows him immediately after the war, climbing the great wall of the Drusenberg in the Vorarlberg with two Austrians who by chance had fought opposite him on three different fronts in World War II. There are no illustrations; the writer is mainly recapturing in poetic and sometimes almost mystical language his reactions to "this world which is not ours.” Perhaps the deepest meaning of his message is expressed in the chapter on "beloved solitude.” "There are no more summits, whose routes are not so minutely described in guide books that there is not a crack capable of holding a piton which is not mentioned, not a movement of the climb which is not submitted to complete analysis. Where can one exercise, amid all this rigorous regimentation, not only strength and flexibility, but an individual spirit of invention, initiative and decision … ? One tries to protect nature. Isn’t it time also to respect the desire for mystery in the heart of man? I sometimes dream of a mountain guidebook which would answer this wish … Each mountain and each route would be the object of a general description based not on its acrobatic values but on its Alpine or even quite other interest. The difficulties would be presented with tact and discretion: for the artist … for the business man … for the audacious … for the brave … Who knows if in the last analysis, the best guidebook would be one in which all the pages are blank?”

This is no book for the acrobatic climber—pitons are hardly mentioned. But it is good reading for all that.

Ursula Corning