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A Lifelong Love Affair with the Mountains

A Lifelong Love Affair with the Mountains. John Filsinger. A. G. Halldin Publishing Co., Inc., Indiana, PA 15701, 1991. 380 pages, 944 photos (301 in color). $29.95.

This profusely illustrated book is a personal document covering a half-century of climbing and mountain treks among the ranges of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Alps, Spain, Peru, Japan, and Nepal. The author’s first-described climbs are during World War II, in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental and Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, where he served as cryptographer in the U.S. Army. During a subsequent career as teacher of English and Spanish language and literature, Filsinger’s summers off allowed him to pursue his mountain odysseys across the globe. Many of his climbs and trek leaderships have been with groups from the Colorado Mountain Club, Iowa Mountaineers, and Mountain Travel USA. Readers acquainted with members of these organizations will enjoy meeting them again through Filsinger’s accounts. The book provides both active and retrospective accounts of his travels, and includes his mountain poems, many of them previously published in climbing periodicals.

Filsinger’s informative and sensitive writing rings a bell in this reviewer’s own retrospections during mountain travels in some of the same areas. Filsinger’s initial love of nature and the mountain world similarly came from Thoreau’s Walden and the writings of John Muir. The book will be particularly enjoyed by those whose prime climbing was during the 1930s through 1960s, a generation whose perspective was tempered—and probably enriched—by a greater familiarity with mountaineering history and literature.

The book is rich in descriptions of personalities, including meetings with several world-class climbers in their own mountain domains. The author emphasizes the rewarding aspects of friendships gained in the mountains, often among peoples from other cultures and with different professional backgrounds.

Among the most significant of the author’s experiences are those which occurred while leading five expeditions into the Andes hinterland. He describes—with saving humor—the frustrating exigencies confronted by him and César Morales, a Peruvian official, while pioneering the complex procedures of launching large-scale expeditions in that country—on the eve of the subsequent voluminous rush of mountaineers from all over the world to Peru’s magnificent cordilleras. In 1971 and 1972, he and Morales led Mountain Travel’s initial climbing treks through the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Vilcabamba, the former on the heels of the great 1970 earthquake in northern Peru, which killed 67,000 and left 600,000 homeless. He describes trekking through the rearranged mountain terrain there and portrays the physical and human devastation of the great avalanche that fell from the upper west face of 21,837-foot North Huascarán, which completely buried the town of Yungay and most of its citizens.

At the back of the book are a glossary of mountaineering terms, detailed supplementary notes amplifying references in the text (including some covering the achievements of distinguished mountaineers he’s met in his travels), and photo credits and detailed photo captions.

The book may be ordered directly from the author at RFD #3, Box 262, Clearfield, PA 16830, for $32.00 postpaid.

Dee Molenaar