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Mountain Madness Hardcover – January 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mountaineer Scott Fischer and outdoors expert Birkby (author of trail maintenance standard Lightly on the Land) were friends and trekking companions from their 1982 meeting until Fischer's tragic, controversial death on a 1996 expedition up Everest, leading a tour group from his Mountain Madness adventure travel business (from which his clients all descended safely). Combining his memories with those of Fischer's family, friends, fellow mountaineers and other alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyo., where Fischer worked, Birkby chronicles Fischer from his New Jersey childhood through his years teaching with NOLS, his drive to perfect his skills and reach the highest peaks, and the struggles to establish his travel company. The obsession indicated by the title is what Birkby most wrestles with, attempting to understand the passion that drove Fischer higher and higher; especially in his climbing scenes, Birkby succeeds in illuminating the power mountains can exert over the human soul. He's also adept at capturing powerful ties of love and friendship, of which Fischer had plenty; his charisma, charm and open embrace of adventure suffuse the narrative. This warm remembrance should strike a powerful chord not just in climbers, but in anyone who has lost a dear friend to untimely death. 16 pages of color photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

A personal, uncritical biography that rounds out the portrait of Fischer sketched in Krakauer’s best-seller Into Thin Air.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A much fuller picture of a climber widely critiqued in the high-profile coverage after the Everest tragedy.” —Seattle Post Intelligencer

“A vivid portrait of a superb athlete whose love of mountain climbing drove everything he did.” —Ed Viesturs, author of No Shortcuts to the Top

“Birkby succeeds in illuminating the power mountains can exert over the human soul.” —Publishers Weekly

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel; 1 edition (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806528753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806528755
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jay A. Satz on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Scott Fischer's name as a mountaineer was as well known within the international mountaineering community as it was little known by the general public until his tragic death on Mount Everest during the deadly climbing season of May 1996. That deadly season at the top of the world captured the public's imagination not only because of the significant loss of life, but also because for the first time, the mostly private business of challenging the world's highest summit was available for the first time to all who were interested on the internet, over satellite phones and through Jon Krakauer's presence as an "imbedded" journalist for Outside magazine.

With Scott's death, Birkby lost a close friend and an influence in his own life going back to 1982 when the two men, who had only recently met, climbed Mt. Olympus together in Olympic National Park. Although Birkby's evolution as a highly skilled and well known outdoorsman had taken him on a self described "horizontal approach to America's wild places" his new friendship with Scott inspired new types of vertical adventures with Scott and his commercial climbing company Mountain Madness that included expeditions to the summits of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Elbrus and even eventually, to the famous Everest base camp.

Birkby's healing from the loss of his good friend began on the SCA high school crew he led in Grand Teton National Park the summer following the tragedy. But even as the pain eased, Bob and other member's of Scott's community grew frustrated with the incomplete portrait of who Scott was as a man, a father and a mountaineer that emerged publicly in major accounts of the accident.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Gans on March 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Everyone who met Scott remembered him. His energy and enthusiasm always left an impression. Robert captures the person, but also captures the communities of people with whom Scott spent his life. This is a remarkable book on a remarkable person.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
World-class mountain climber and guide gets a posthumous tribute from a mournful, devoted friend and fellow mountaineer.

Birkby opens atop the 18,000-foot Himalayan peak Kala Patar. It's 1996, and Scott Fischer (1955 - 96) is showing him the skyline of Mount Everest, where Fischer will shortly lose his life. That climb was a far cry from the pair's initial adventure back in 1982, when Fischer convinced a then-inexperienced Birkby to scale Mount Olympus.

The author details Fischer's childhood, when a love of camping and a penchant for thrill-seeking blossomed into challenging hikes as a teenager with the National Outdoor Leadership School. He would later join NOLS as an instructor, counting among his students Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm, 1997, etc.).

Birkby tenderly recalls Fischer's clumsiness in his early 20s, when he miraculously survived more than 12 deadly plummets and was nicknamed "the Fallingest Man in Climbing." After gaining increased experience and acumen, he left NOLS and formed Mountain Madness, a company offering guided climbs whose motto was "Make it happen."

Deftly detailing Fischer's life in conversational prose, Birkby shares stories about encountering bears and traversing frozen terrain in the Alaskan wilderness, adventures ascending Kilimanjaro and the death-defying challenges of the Annapurna Circuit trail. As his son neared his first birthday, Fischer became more determined than ever to scale Everest. Climbing down from its 29,000-foot peak in May 1996, the group he was guiding got caught in a blizzard. Everyone managed to descend to safety except Fischer, who perished from exposure. The tragedy received widespread media attention and a lasting memorial in Jon Krakauer's eyewitness account, Into Thin Air (1997).

A fitting homage to one of the great outdoor extremists.
(Kirkus Reviews)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Craig English on June 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I got caught up in Mountain Madness and barreled through it in a week. Because Fischer's life is so crammed with the incredible, in the hands of the wrong writer, it could easily become a boring litany of outrageous feats. However, Robert Birkby gets it right. Each climb is unique in its setting, challenges, and personalities. And make no mistake, the book is crammed full of incredible adventure, both terrifying and triumphant.

It was a lot of fun to read about the camaraderie and good times the climbers have when they are not risking their lives on the mountains. I'm afraid of heights, but I sure would have enjoyed hanging out with this guys on level ground. In fact, one of the things I appreciated was not feeling like an earth-bound outsider, looking in on the gods of climbing. Through Birkby, who was a friend of Fischer's and is also admittedly more of a horizontal hiker, I felt squarely anchored in the book. I also appreciated that Birkby is an outdoorsman, and I always felt like I was in the hands of someone who understood the process of climbing.

Lastly, this is an excellent portrayal of a fascinating person. I got a good understanding of the drive behind Fischer's climbing. He seemed like a man with a relentless hunger, and yet a thoughtful man, who was struggling for balance in his life.
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