Select one of the keywords
Near Death in the Mountains: True Stories of Disaster and Survival    edited by Cecil Kuhne order for
Near Death in the Mountains
by Cecil Kuhne
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In the Preface to Near Death In The Mountains, Cecil Kuhne quotes British mountaineer George Mallory: 'when Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he replied, 'Because it is there'.' Perhaps that brief answer tells why many attempt adventures and achievements in all avenues of life. Kuhne's anthology is the latest in a series of 'true stories of disaster and survival', that underline 'the awesome power of the mountains'. It includes twelve adventurers' accounts that vary in timeframe, location, type of experience, and circumstance. In the Foreword, Eiger Dreams, Jon Krakauer writes of the Nordwand experience and the 'infamous Hinterstoisser Traverse', 'a 140-foot end run around some unclimbable overhangs'. It was first ascended in 1936 by Andreas Hinterstoisser, when he and three other men perished.

Each story offers its own true-life drama. In No Picnic On Mount Kenya, Felice Benuzzi describes his attempt to escape from a British POW camp, along with fellow inmates Enzo and Giuan. They ascended Mount Kenya (17,000 feet). Italian mountaineer Walter Bonatti is a pioneer, who tackled 'one of most difficult routes in the world'. The Mountains of My Life records Bonatti's notable achievement of the Southwest Pillar of the Dru in 1955. He describes the experience as 'living in another world five days ... a mystical, visionary state in which the impossible did not exist and anything could happen'. In 1967 seven climbers attempted to climb Mount McKinley (the highest peak in North America). Art Davidson's Minus 148 degrees The Winter Ascent of Mt. McKinley records the winter trek and three of the party making the summit. Davidson and his friend Shiro Nishimae had already made a successful summer ascension, and wondered what it would be like in winter. But that winter ascension resulted in a fatal accident on the second day out.

Editor Cecil Kuhne includes chapter prescripts and postscripts, along with brief bios of the contributing authors. The reader experiences the meaning of whiteout (short depth of vision) and blinding miles of ice, while becoming familiar with words such as scree and saddle tarns. There are tender descriptions of views, such as of 'pastel yellow of evening' and an 'ice crystal shower'. Reading this anthology requires many sittings, yet was worthwhile in getting acquainted with the climbers' feats of scaling high precipices. Kuhne varied the experiences enough to make for interesting, and intriguing reading, not discounting the agony and ecstasy of each account. These stories of the power of the mountains span five continents, 'from the frosty tip of Mount McKinley in the dead of the winter, to the unexplored vastness of the Himalayas and beyond'.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Travel books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews