Alpinismo Español en el Mundo, volume I, by José María Aspiazu (in Spanish). Madrid: Editorial R. M., 1980. 215 pages, 54 black & white and 70 color illustrations, 10 sketch-maps and line drawings.
I approach books that record the mountaineering achievements abroad of a nation with somewhat mixed feelings. Books of this kind excel in the photographic description of some ranges not always covered by mountaineering books. On the other hand, the nationalism that characterizes these works leaves a sense of displeasure. The first nation to see its mountaineering accomplishments abroad recorded in a book was Switzerland, with the highly patriotic volume III of Berge der Welt (1948). It was followed by Italy (1953, 1967 and 1972), New Zealand (1969), Poland (1954 and 1974) and now Spain In 1972, a young Basque began to collect material for this book. It took him almost seven years to prepare the first volume. It must be remembered that Spain, unknown to almost every mountaineer, has the oldest mountain expeditionary history in the world, since it began in the early 1500s with ascents to Popocatepetl, Pichincha and other mountains in the Andes, thus maintaining in its hands for several centuries the record of climbing altitude (with the exception of the then unknown Indian mountain ascents in the Andes). This book, then, records this early, heroic period of Spanish mountaineering and also surveys climbing by modern Spaniards in the Polar regions, the Caucasus and Western, Central and Southeast Asia. (In the Himalaya-Karakoram they have so far ascended six peaks over 8000 meters.) The quality of the illustrations is in my opinion better than the average mountain picture book, with small black-and- white photos alternating with large color plates. Spaniards, like some mountaineers from certain nations, seem to show as much interest in the human population of the lands they have visited as in the mountains proper and this is reflected in their pictures. It must also be said that only one single picture shows here any flag waving at all, a perhaps unique record, if we compare this to other books in this category. The text, terse, is by the author but has many excerpts by the climbers themselves incorporated into it. In all, this is a well illustrated and well written book that describes achievements that deserve to be better known. And volume II, to include Spanish expeditionary activity in Africa and the Western Hemisphere, promises to be at least as good.