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Near Death in the Mountains: True Stories of Disaster and Survival (Vintage Departures) Paperback – July 8, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Although new technology and techniques make mountain climbing more accessible, it is still a dangerous sport that attracts a small number of people. This collection of excerpts from a variety of mountaineering books includes stories from well-respected professional climbers, weekend climbers with experience, and those forced to climb by circumstance, such as the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes. Each vignette includes a summary at the beginning and a follow-up at the end. Readers may be frustrated by the nature of the selections, as it often seems that part of the story is missing, and it is often necessary to have a passing knowledge of the vocabulary and techniques of climbing to appreciate the narrative fully. On the other hand, for armchair adventurers, the tales are awe-inspiring and can drive interest in discovering the rest of the stories.—Mary Ann Harlan, Arcata High School, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Cecil Kuhne is the editor of two previous anthologies on adventure travel, On the Edge and The Armchair Paddler. A former whitewater rafting guide, he has also written nine books about rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. He lives in Dallas.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Departures
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307279359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307279354
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,056,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When you climb a mountain as a kid, it's just a hill or a sand dune which does not pose much danger. When you grow up and decide to climb an unbelievable mountain for thrills risking your life, it is just plain nuts! Cecil Kuhne has collected some really awesome accounts in Near Death in the Mountains. The stories are written by people who survived expeditions and are relating their harrowing experiences.

Each episode takes you on a different climb, whether on a glacier, an impossible face of sheer rock covered in ice, or across a snowfield which has crevices hundreds of feet deep laying in wait like an ominous booby-trap.

There is one commonality among the collected stories, safety! Though there were many near death experiences, and some actual deaths described, it was not because they ignored caution. Rather, it was wind, ice, snow, or hidden dangers. One climber's death was caused by a hernia which could not be treated on the mountain. A doctor, part of the climbing team, could not save her. An unusual burial was devised by the group and she was given last rites as though at sea. They wrapped her in a bag and let her fall gently down the mountain to a hundred foot field of snow. For their safety and survival reasons they could not bring her back.

There is a short coming in this anthology which you discover when you start reading them. It is the special terminology of mountaineers. Having a good vocabulary and a dictionary will not assist in understanding this jargon. After reading several of these breathe-taking adventures you understand what an ice ax can do and how essential it is to all climbers. Some gear which they attach to their boots, have the same purpose, but the type used is dictated by the terrain.
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Format: Paperback
Near Death in the Mountains is not for the squeamish!

Can you imagine being stranded in an ice cave at eight thousand feet, the raging wind gusting in excess of 100 m.p.h., frostbite swelling your hands and feet so badly you can't even dress yourself, you become delirious from lack of water, and are unaware of the passage of time? These conditions can be part of the countless, serious conditions the mountain climber may encounter.

Near Death in the Mountains features some stories well suited to the seasoned veteran, who can appreciate the detailed and technical accounts. (I was mostly lost.) Aspiring climbers can learn a great deal from these comprehensive and broad narratives.

The book also includes accounts more suited to the adventure reader. The vividness of description brings the rugged mountain peaks clearly to your mind. The terror of the wind comes alive as you hear its furry and feel the intense cold encompass the exhausted climbers. The possibility to freeze your fingers, nose, or toes in only moments of exposure becomes a startling reality.

Near Death in the Mountains lays it all on the line, with distressing accounts of carelessness, gung-ho attitudes, or over-confidence resulting in the loss life or limbs. However, extraordinary courage, strength, and endurance in the pursuit of a dream give others a positive picture of the sport.

Don't forget an extra blanket. There is a blizzard between the pages and you'll soon be engulfed!

After you read this book, its impact will affect you for the rest of your life!

Armchair Interviews agrees.
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Format: Paperback
Given how many of the stories end with the death or dismemberment of the teammates, I would suggest this book for older kids and adults.

For kids, you will want to prepare them for some specific mountain climbing vocabulary -- abseil, couloir, traverse, piton, crampon, crevasse, bivouac, belay, cornice.

What struck me about these story was how well they were written -- these are very literary stories, great for reading out loud to my family of boys. Spellbinding, every one.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book choices the author made were some of the best I have read. I loved reading the detailed descriptions of the climbs and the climbers mighty efforts to reach the summits. Great climbs often result in great loss of a favorite climbing friend. Sharing in those efforts and losses from excepts of some of the best climbing books leaves me feeling like I had been there.
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This is not as thrilling as many of the other books I have read in this genre. Each story is written in a common sort of way without a lot of details which makes them nore mundain, I found myself skipping some stories because they couldn't hold my interest. I prefer to dive into a book about one story that I can't wait to get back to.
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