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Mountaineering In Patagonia

Mountaineering In Patagonia. Alan Kearney. Cloudcap, Seattle, Washington, 1993. Hardcover. 143 pages, 24 color photos, maps, topos.

Having climbed in Patagonia on three separate occasions, I am an aficionado. My infatuation with the region has led me to buy numerous books, as well as to write several accounts of my trips for climbing magazines. Lacking in the realm of English-language climbing books (and my library) has been a comprehensive tome, similar to the work produced by Italians Gino Buscaini and Silvia Metzeltin, Patagonia.

Several years ago I heard rumblings of a book on Patagonia being worked on by Alan Kearney and I waited for its debut with enthusiasm. Moments after eventually seeing it for sale in the Chessler Books catalog, I was on the phone with my credit card. “Overnight Delivery,” I said. I can still recall my anticipation of the book’s arrival, and my first look at it—smaller than expected; excellent quality photos; not a guidebook (which is how the publisher describes the book). At the conclusion of my first reading of the book I felt that the text was informative and well written; the photographs deserved to be displayed in a larger format, and the information was quite comprehensive and useful.

Nearly a year later, I was asked to write this review. This assignment caused me to revisit my initial reactions to the book. Having written and published climbing guidebooks, I know that economics drive the publishing business. Unfortunately, mountaineering book sales in America just aren’t large enough to support an expensive, coffee-table sized book on a place as far away as Patagonia, let alone popular rock-climbing areas in the states. Within its scant 143 pages, Mountaineering In Patagonia contains accounts of important ascents, an expedition planner, a list of all climbing routes, a bibliography, and a glossary. This shotgun approach might prevent anyone else in America from publishing a profitable, large-scale climbing book on Patagonia. This is good news for both Kearney and Cloudcap, but bad news for those of us that want bigger, more plentiful photos of climbing in Patagonia and a comprehensive guidebook that’s in English, but isn't done in shorthand. What Kearney and Cloudcap have produced is excellent—I just wish there were more of it.

Todd Swain