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The Guiding Spirit

The Guiding Spirit. Andrew J. Kauffman and William L. Putnam. Footprint Publishing, Revelstoke, British Columbia, 1986. 256 pages, photographs, and proper maps. $16.00.

The Guiding Spirit is a biography of the well-known Swiss (and Canadian) mountaineering guide Edward Feuz Jr. Using the modem technique of tape recording of interviews, Andrew J. Kauffman, who did most of the writing, and William L. Putnam, who did much of the research, have preserved details of this guide’s life and mountaineering history.

I have to admit that I did not begin at the beginning of the book, but plunged in at the middle. (You’ll see why when you look at the contents.) Kauffman has chosen to center the narrative around Edward Feuz’ words themselves, but digresses to include stories of Feuz’ friends and associates, to a pleasing effect. There are many amusing stories and many chuckles in these pages, as well as dramatic and even horrifying incidents. The star of the show is clearly Edward Feuz himself, through his spoken words in the tape recorder.

The book also succeeds in conveying a sense of adventure active in the times in which Edward Feuz lived, and the adjustments which Feuz and his fellow professionals had to make (or failed to make in some cases) to the alien, wild environment of Canada in its latter days of exploration, in contrast to the settled, ordered world of Switzerland. Their business relation to the Canadian Pacific Railroad is also clarified, which reveals that while the railroad was a good employer in general, there were points of friction which developed during the early course of their employment.

This volume is well written, and will appeal most to those mountaineers who have experience in the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia Mountains (Interior Ranges) of British Columbia, and who consequently have a little exposure to their history. A list of the dramatis personae is included in the appendices. It is a welcome change from sometimes dreary accounts of expedition logistics and comes with the reviewer’s recommendation.

Earle R. Whipple