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The Mountaineer's Companion

The Mountaineer’s Companion, edited by Michael Ward. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, Ltd., 1966. 598 pages, 24 black and white photographs, 1 color photograph, 20 drawings, 3 maps. Price 50s.

This excellent British anthology of writings on mountaineering covers the sport from several diverse points of view. There are articles by laymen and by experienced climbers; by the artistically oriented and by others of an extremely earthy nature. Some excerpts are pointedly understated; others are so descriptively embellished that scenery vividly comes to life and man’s efforts and passions are keenly felt. Most of the writings have been taken from books long familiar to those who read the literature of mountaineering, but there are also some short articles and a few poems. From all of them, however, comes a distillation of the deeper meaning of mountaineering to its many practitioners down through the years.

The anthology is divided into nine parts. Of these, the first four comprise about two-thirds of the total book. The nature and fascination of climbing are treated extensively in the first part, leading naturally into some 23 articles on the birthplace of the sport of climbing, the European Alps. Climbing in Britain comes next. Michael Ward, the editor, has assembled a splendid series of articles on Everest in Part IV, and well he might: he was a member of the 1951 Everest reconnaissance and of the successful 1953 expedition. Early articles in this series cover the classic writing of Leigh-Mallory and of Norton and Odell. The later efforts of Smythe, Shipton and Hunt, and finally, the Unsoeld-Hornbein traverse, are all well presented.

The last five parts are somewhat unrelated, covering climbing accidents; the Himalayas; biographical sketches; other great mountain ranges throughout the world; and, to conclude, a potpourri of the unusual, including pieces on yeti, mountain painters, a balloon accident and other titles. It was a pleasure to reread and relive some of the greatest adventures ever experienced by man. And, after all, aren’t our own climbing adventures our most remembered moments?

Wallace W. Adams