American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Snowshoe Book

  • Book Reviews
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1973

The Snowshoe Book, by William Osgood and Leslie Hurley. Brattleboro, Vermont: Stephen Greene Press, 1972. 128 pages, $3.95

The Snowshoe Book is straight-forward, informative, and unbiased almost to the point of dullness. It is logically divided into history, selection of snowshoes and bindings, clothing, techniques of travel, safety and (perhaps a surprise) racing. World War II veterans, the authors show their heritage with many adaptions from war surplus equipment. Also, numerous trapper and native equipment variations are detailed. I suspect, however, that most will buy their snowshoes and bindings ready-made.

Generally reliable, the book has some lapses. Some type of bearpaw is the preferred snowshoe in the East, not only for bushwacking as the authors suggest (p. 29), but for trails as well. The section on snowshoe selection (p. 46) fails to take into account the weight of clothes worn and a pack. The availability and desirability of renting snowshoes is not mentioned. Nor is it cited that snowshoers should not walk cross-country ski trails. It is suggested (p. 72) that “a plastic police whistle is a good signaling device if you need to call for help,” but the signal for help is not given. Although the authors recommend two ski poles for “steep ascents” (p. 74), a second pole is often a hindrance when the slope is wooded, as the otherwise free hand can grab trees. Additionally, when traversing steep slopes a pole on the uphill side is awkward. The “beginning” repair kit (p. 91) is too much to carry. The part on The Edible Wild (p. 93), lacking definitive illustrations for all plants mentioned, is of little value to those who do not know these plants. In the section on avalanches it is not mentioned that avalanches frequently re-occur down the same slopes, and that this can be ascertained by noting deadfall. Tying on alpine cord is cited as a help in being located if buried by an avalanche (p. 105), but the availability of cord marked in feet, to show distance from victim, is not noted. Prusik slings are mentioned (p. 113), but not how they are tied.

Published by the producers of The New Cross-Country Ski Book by John Caldwell, it has the same slick paperback format. Photographs and drawings are plentiful. Unfortunately, the artist does not possess an adequate knowledge of snowshoeing. The ice axe illustrated on page 71 must be seen to be believed. The illustration on page 81 shows ski poles way short of the armpit length recommended by the authors. Many illustrations have lettering that did not reproduce large enough.

James Kolocotronis

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