A Woman’s Reach, by Nea Morin. New York: Dodd, Meade and Co. Inc., 1968. 288 pages, 24 illustrations, 3 maps.
This is an absorbing book, delightfully and humorously written and superbly illustrated with many of the author’s own photographs. It is hard to put down, especially for one familiar with the Alps.
English-born Nea Morin is one of the outstanding woman climbers of our day, a member of the French Groupe de Haute Montagne, one of whose leading members, Jean Morin, she married. Her daughter Denise, herself an excellent climber, married Charles Evans, of Everest fame. Nea, in more than 45 years has climbed with most of the leading men and women climbers in England and France and in every important district of the Alps, as well as in Wales, Cornwall, Scotland and the Himalayas. We follow her from beginning with beloved Hannes Schneider at St. Anton in 1922 to the Dauphiné, those wild, uncompromising mountains which she and her husband loved. Later we meet her in England at Harrison’s Rocks, in France at Fontainebleau, then at Chamonix, the Tyrol, the Dolomites, Zermatt, the Bernese Oberland, Bosignam in Cornwall, Skye and finally as the only woman on the ill-fated attempt on Ama Dablam in 1959.
Nea Morin is a rare individual who combines the right physical build and coordination needed for rock-climbing with a deep feeling for the mountain way of life. She brings out the characteristics of each district, its people, the local flowers and birds, the effects of sun, rain and snow on the landscapes she loves. The way she communicates her enthusiasms is the big charm of her book. In every minutely described expedition one feels it is the climb and the mountains that matter and that she and her companions are only the means to the end. As Eric Shipton says in his delightful preface, her enthusiasm and sympathy, as well as her active participation, have been an inspiration to innumerable young climbers. She started her climbing when established guided climbing was giving way to guideless ventures of brilliant young mountaineers of all countries with a consequent revolution in techniques and equipment, and she was always in the vanguard of this emancipation.
Nea’s great interest is the development of manless climbing and she made notable contributions. An interesting appendix shows a list of early or first feminine climbs, and their number and quality are impressive. She also has a whole chapter on her observations on women as mountaineers and her summary of the essentials for a climber is illuminating. We are always aware of the big role the mountains have played in Morin family life from its beginning. These mountaineering memoirs deserve to become a mountain classic.