Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: Beyond the Mountain by Steve House

This is a solid mountaineering book. Steve describes the process of him going from a naive teenager to that of an experienced, one of the world's best, alpinists. He covers everything from being terrified on a 5.9 route (relatively easy) and using ancient climbing gear to getting divorced and his friends dying.

Much of the book reads like a journal or a conversation. He takes snippets of his life that were the more dramatic and puts them together in Beyond the Mountain. That is to say that much of the book can stand alone. Several of the chapters are short eulogies to alpinists died in the mountains. Others are trip reports of first ascents. Together it is an accurate description of what he gave to get to that level both on a physical and emotional level.

Beyond the Mountain struck me not for the descriptions of difficult climbing, which I promptly forgot, but for the emotional aspect. He tries several times to describe the connection between people after completing a very difficult and dangerous route. He describes the connection as one that might even be stronger than between a married couple. His descriptions reminded me of war veterans that often say they were closer to the people they served with than anyone else in their life. Veterans shared with each other in a way that people who weren't there don't understand. From my limited experience in that type of stressful situation I have an inkling of what they mean. Steve House, in my opinion, really centers his book around trying to describe those emotions.

It is a very insightful book into the life of one of the best alpinists. I will not say you need to go out and read it now. However, if you have a loved one who ventures into the mountains this is the book I would recommend most so that you might better understand your loved one. Beyond the Mountain describes the emotional effects of mountaineering, beyond the mountains.

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