Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering

Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering Another beautifully written, impecably researched book about mountains Just a tad short as are most of the 70 80 mountaineering books in my library of Isserman s with Stewart Weaver , Fallen Giants , the most informative, important book ever written about Himalayan mountaineering I ve read most of it twice now, and still consult it often as I finish my second novel, based on women climbers conquering all fourteen of the 8,000 meter mountains I consider Fallen Giants one of my best f Another beautifully written, impecably researched book about mountains Just a tad short as are most of the 70 80 mountaineering books in my library of Isserman s with Stewart Weaver , Fallen Giants , the most informative, important book ever written about Himalayan mountaineering I ve read most of it twice now, and still consult it often as I finish my second novel, based on women climbers conquering all fourteen of the 8,000 meter mountains I consider Fallen Giants one of my best friends.GF 5 In the first centuries of American national existence, the wilderness had been a problem to be solved by civilization in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century, it began to seem to many Americans that civilization was a problem to be solved by wilderness. I was unimpressed with this book In part, because I ve read so much about mountaineering and the memoirs of mountaineers, that this book didn t tell me much I didn t already know And also because I ve read Isserman s book written w Stewart Weaver Fallen Giants The History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes, and that liberally covered American moutaineers expeditions in the Himalayas, some of which were repeated here What was new to me was the histo I was unimpressed with this book In part, because I ve read so much about mountaineering and the memoirs of mountaineers, that this book didn t tell me much I didn t already know And also because I ve read Isserman s book written w Stewart Weaver Fallen Giants The History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes, and that liberally covered American moutaineers expeditions in the Himalayas, some of which were repeated here What was new to me was the history of the mountaineering clubs in America like the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Sierra Club, among others , the distinct exclusionary class system of Eastern versus Western climbers, and related topics Those were new to me The other issue I had with this book is the to me randomness of how the content was presented You could have a chapter on Western climbers, then one on Eastern climbers abroad, then one on equipment, then one on minorities and climbing Overall, simply disappointed A great read Isserman does a wonderful job at pulling his reader in with endless stories of adventure, challenge and death What I think is great about this book is that he focuses on the major shifts in climbing he keeps his stories tied to the fact that these climbers were all making history one climb at a time Man s desire for mountains is all encompassing he seeks them for solitude, for hope, for freedom, for salvation Yet in the end all one will find is a cold rock resisting the attempt A great read Isserman does a wonderful job at pulling his reader in with endless stories of adventure, challenge and death What I think is great about this book is that he focuses on the major shifts in climbing he keeps his stories tied to the fact that these climbers were all making history one climb at a time Man s desire for mountains is all encompassing he seeks them for solitude, for hope, for freedom, for salvation Yet in the end all one will find is a cold rock resisting the attempt to tame it In sixteen hundred and forty two,American made first mountain feat.In nineteen hundred and sixty three,Americans peaked Everest too. A must for anyone who loves the mountains. A history of Americans in the mountains since 1642 An excellent, wide ranging, overview that includes America s changing relationship with wilderness and the individuals that framed that relationship from Thoreau to Chounard, from the Pilgrims to REI Very well written, thoroughly enjoyed. An enjoyable and interesting work that brought to light several of the developments toward American mountaineering, going from the early summits in the White Mountains, to the founding of climbing clubs, and then the rise of Yosemite rock climbing The author includes the expeditions into Alaska and Himalayas, along with their impact on the climbing clubs and community The history trails off as the last golden age 60s passes into history leaving out my favorite climber and other contemporary An enjoyable and interesting work that brought to light several of the developments toward American mountaineering, going from the early summits in the White Mountains, to the founding of climbing clubs, and then the rise of Yosemite rock climbing The author includes the expeditions into Alaska and Himalayas, along with their impact on the climbing clubs and community The history trails off as the last golden age 60s passes into history leaving out my favorite climber and other contemporary climbers , Ed Viesturs, who is a modern climber and one of the ones culminating this history Given my Everest obsession, I thought a book about how American mountains were conquered would be right up my alley Alas, this book was not quite what I expected it to be There was history of humanity s very early relationships with mountains they almost didn t acknowledge their existence, other than as obstacles much the way people didn t really acknowledge the color blue until the last couple millennia they just didn t have a framework to understand these things fascinating There w Given my Everest obsession, I thought a book about how American mountains were conquered would be right up my alley Alas, this book was not quite what I expected it to be There was history of humanity s very early relationships with mountains they almost didn t acknowledge their existence, other than as obstacles much the way people didn t really acknowledge the color blue until the last couple millennia they just didn t have a framework to understand these things fascinating There was exploration and early efforts made by a few very forgotten souls to climb mountains in the early days of American settlement, mostly so they could see what was on the other side and how hard it would be to get there I found all of this quite fascinating Good start Then there was the recounting of how the philosophy of climbing mountains started to change as American settlement pushed westward, including a very exhaustively thorough survey of every human being who climbed every mountain pre 1900 I loved the bits with Emerson and Thoreau I really should read them but did a LOT of skimming through the rest This middle section felt so muchlike a reference manual than a narrative like reading the books of Leviticus and Numbers NO ONE reads that for fun I paused to read in slightlydetail about early female climbers and the challenges they faced I gave the sections on Denali a solid read through, because apparently Denali occupies the same kind of monster fascination that I have with Everest The history of those climbs was interesting, but still, muchdry and informational than I would have wished Human interest is given little page space, beyond recounting how climbs affected so and so s status in society, and the drama of these magnificent climbs is given no space at all Even recounting tragic deaths, Isserman acknowledges only that they occurred, and perhaps gives a bit of context and an overview of any impact the accident had on the world of mountain climbing as a whole.By the time the reference manual switched from men conquering mountains to men conquering particular slabs of rock, my attention span was just about shot I really don t care about who developed what climbing techniques on which mountain, or about international rivalries over how to use pitons or whether to wear a shirt This is not a failing of the book The book is what its subtitle claims it to be a history of mountaineering in America or at least, by Americans we take plenty of trips abroad That I was hoping for something a little bitdifferent is not the book s fault I think I wantedphilosophy about the ways we relate to and interact with our mountains, why we want to climb them, and how doing so changes us More Thoreau, less Houston I think I wantedromance about what it costs to climb that mountain for the sake of climbing that mountain, a few moments of racing heartbeat wondering if they would make it This is not that book, but having read this book, I am considerablyknowledgeable about the context in which my philosophically, historically, romantically satisfying reads about Everest and K2 and Eiger and Denali take place No rating, then, since this book and I weren t the right fit for each other, though I will note that it was at least interesting enough that I stuck with it skimming and otherwise all the way to page 344 436, WHERE THE FOOTNOTES START That s 92 pages of footnotes and bibliography, if you don t want to do the math yourself This book ain t nothin if not well researched In this magisterial narrative history, award winning author Maurice Isserman profiles a robust selection of American mountaineers including John C Fr mont, John Muir, Annie Peck, Bradford Washburn, Charlie Houston, and Bob Bates , and illustrates vividly the importance of mountaineering to the nation s cultural identity Covering four centuries of daring climbs, Continental Divide tells a vital story of adventure in the high peaks that evokes the enterprising, revolutionary spirit of America itself

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