The Andes: The Complete History of Mountaineering in South America
By Evelio A. Echevarria
THE ANDES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF MOUNTAINEERING IN SOUTH AMERICA. Evelio A. Echevarria. Joseph Reidhead & Co., 2018. Paperback, 840 pages, $64.50.
If you’re a longtime fan of this journal, Evelio Echevarria is a name you’ve likely read dozens of times. That’s because, from the late 1950s until recently, the Santiago, Chile, native has been sending in reports about his climbing adventures to whichever AAJ editor was in charge. All told, Echevarria thinks he climbed about 100 virgin summits in the Andes. (In an interview last fall, he scoffed when I said “wow,” and quickly pointed out that Johan Reinhard, an American climber based in West Virginia, has bagged more than 200 summits, according to Echevarria.) Regardless, Echevarria has now pulled his vast experience—both on the ground and in the research library—into one magnum opus: The Andes: The Complete History of Mountaineering in High South America.
This book is a stunner if you’re a nerd for facts, figures, altitudes, and dates. At its 828-page heart, it’s a door-stopping compendium of data on the mountains of South America, with information on who climbed what and when and how. The big sub-sectors of history are all in there: ascents by indigenous peoples, ascents by explorers, ascents by colonials, ascents by later generations, ascents by women, et cetera. Perhaps what pleased me most about this book were the vast swaths of stories about European climbers’ activities in South America—the kind of stories many American readers might not see. And, thankfully, Echevarria puts all those explorations and ascents into context, linking European events (notably the World Wars) to ascents of mountains, walls and towers in the Andes.
The book comes with a text-heavy presentation, but there are enough photos, maps, and delightful little sketches to keep you entertained and reading for the sheer fun that mountain literature can be.
I started corresponding with Echevarria in the late 1990s, when friends and I were headed to South America for climbing goals. His knowledge is limitless and his mind is always two steps ahead of mine when it comes to the next question. Now, readers everywhere can experience something of the Grand Master’s knowledge about a mountain range we all know and love: the Andes.
– Cameron M. Burns