American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Mountains

  • Book Reviews
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1972

The Mountains, by Lorus J. Milne and Margery Milne and the Editors of Time-Life Books. New York: Time-Life Books. 1962, Revised 1970. 192 pages, 136 photographs, 35 drawings.

This attractively designed presentation spans the vast subject of mountains and the aspects of life directly concerned with them. A large format provides scope for illustrative variety, a pleasant blend of color and black-and-white. Among some excellent representational drawings of the geologic forces associated with mountain building and a layout of the world’s mountain systems, there is a gap in the portrayal of mountain building sequences. Here, the creative explanation is not matched by that on destruction.

The book’s highlight is the portion on life in the alpine environment, to be expected because the primary authors are biologists. The otherwise excellent material on man and his adaptation to high regions and his usage of mountain terrain could be bolstered by a display of the damage he has done to these regions. While there is more than sufficient material on the theories of geomorphology, the coverage on world glaciation and its vast effects is underwritten. In an imbalanced focus on the Alps, the authors display their naiveté by the startling statement that “all Swiss Glaciers belong to the category of valley glaciers.” The important subject of the chronology of neoglaciation has somehow been omitted.

Mountain travel and the subject of climbing is biased toward the usually covered material: Alaska is barely mentioned while the Matterhorn and Mount Everest are featured subjects. A curious choice in the listing of important expeditions is the inclusion of the 1642 one to Mount Washington in New Hampshire (the Abruzzi conquest of Saint Elias, the pioneer expeditions to Logan and McKinley are overlooked).

The error-filled captioning on climbing photographs leads to a distorted exposition which includes the statement that the “ice ax” .... doubles .... “as a hammer with which to drive iron pegs into rock crevices or solid ice.”

But this should not materially detract from the overall presentation of The Mountains and its educational value. A revision should include a graphic portrayal of mountain erosion, timberline and summit level accordances, a focus on the volcanic history of a great volcano (Rainier), and an illustrated depiction of either the world’s or America’s important ranges.


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