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Courage And Misfortune a climbing anthology
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Courage and Misfortune
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Courage and Misfortune
The Mountaineers
$16.95

Volume II of The Mountaineers Anthology Series, Courage and Misfortune, is a compilation of eleven captivating chapters selected from a wide range of classic mountain literature. The anthology blends an entertaining mix of personal chronicles and gripping expedition adventures, including narratives by world class mountaineers, such as Reinhold Messner, Geoff Childs and John Roskelley. In "Storm on Manaslu" for example, Messner tells of his close call with death while descending from the Himalayan peak during a violent whiteout. In his struggle to find the tent Messner begins a desperate search for the source of the eerie cries of his dead partner.

Although most of the excerpts are selected from the current literature of the last forty years, there are two historical chapters. One featuring Edward Whymper's account of the fatal accident on the Matterhorn in 1865, and another chronicles the life of Delmar Fadden, who, at the age of 22, falls to his death after a successful solo winter ascent of Mt. Ranier in 1936. Though old of date, these stories are timeless in their relevance.

There are several chapters devoted to the world of large expedition climbing, ripe with jealousy, one-upmanship and personal agendas. In "Not A Private Affair", Walt Unsworth writes of the ill-fated 1971 International Everest Expedition, in which elite climbers from thirteen countries participated. Unsworth describes the ensuing fiasco, where competitive nationalism and a desire for fame led to irreparable differences among the participants and the eventual deterioration of the expedition.

Each selection in the anthology contributes to the common theme: In choosing to climb, we open ourselves to extraordinary physical, emotional and moral challenges. Moreover, some individuals rise to the occasion of these challenges, while others are led to their death. How one ends up on one side or the other of fate's hand is one of climbing's most elusive mysteries. Collectively, these stories illustrates, that our choices may have profound life and death consequences. Faced with harrowing adversity, many of the climbers in these pages contemplate their mortality, question their strength, and even question their choice to climb at all. Most poignant in this respect, is the chapter from "The Totem Pole" by Paul Pritchard, who sustain a life-altering head injury when hit by rock fall on what started out to be a fun day of cragging with his girlfriend. With respect to human interaction in times of duress, Art Davidson writes with profound honesty and sensitivity in describing his epic six-day bivouac during the 1967 winter ascent of Mt. McKinley. With 100 mph winds howling outside, he is entombed in a cramped snow cave with his two climbing partners. Davidson, with impeccable attention to detail, writes one of the book's finest chapters describing the subtleties of their physical and personal interactions.

Conclusion:  Courage and Misfortune packs some of the best chapters of mountain literature into one powerful volume. The breadth of subjects included span several genres of climbing life, from solo ascents filled with introspection and self-determination, to the complex mega expeditions, with all their logistics and interpersonal complexities. Within these chapters are also stories of profound courage, commitment and strength of the human spirit. Each chapter leaves one considering our own reasons for climbing, and more importantly, in what style do we meet our own physical and moral challenges.

Details: The Mountaineers Anthology Series, Volume II, Courage and Misfortune, ISBN #: 0-89886-826-2

Danielle Gelinas
August 2002

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