From the Mountaineering Library

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by Gordon Janow, Director of Programs

Ah, sports and literature…. for the most part – it tis a “Ne’er the twain shall meet “!.

Of course some sports books have transcended the “I did this” ( such as Jim Bouton’s Ball Four and George Plimpton’s Paper Lion) but for the most part it, I never found the appeal, except in the case of mountaineering. Perhaps it’s the pacing, the slow energy, the planning, the pain, that make mountaineering literature a beautiful  category of its own. These stories go well beyond the gripping tales of a near death climbs and conquest while the best of the genre has such a unique ability to bring the reader into the expedition in great intimacy.

 Some favorites from the library:

Well OK, not a climbing book,  but if you want understand the Himalaya you need to understand the geopolitical world of the early Himalayan climbers and there’s no better place to start then Peter Hopkirk’s The Great Game. I find this essential reading for anyone interest in anything!

The Shipton- Tilman expeditions of the 1930’s are absolutely  fascinating and paramount in setting the ground work for the great Himalayan expeditions to follow. Eric Shiptons’ Mountain Travel books (a series) are a must and truly depict the age of exploration (especially in the Garwhal) in gripping detail. Recon is serious business. His partner Bill Tilman has a stand-alone volume on the Nanda Devi expedition and perhaps my favorite of the lot. Read these back to back.

On the lighter side, John Keay ( who also wrote Great Explorers of the Western Himalaya) has a fantastic little book on the history of mapping and naming the Himalayan Peaks. This gives the mountain lover a nice historical perspective and dovetails with Hopkirk’s The Great Game. ….


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