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On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 2, 2005


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743255186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743255189
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. More than a few readers will think of John Krakauer's Into Thin Air as they delve into this bracing work. The connection isn't surprising, since Roberts has served as a mentor to Krakauer. Throughout his life, Roberts has been an avid climber as well as a vocal advocate for the sport, writing over 15 books, many of them on mountaineering. This volume finds him looking back at the entirety of his climbing experience. It opens with his recounting the horrific 1961 fall of his high school friend and climbing partner, Gabe Lee. In spite of this tragedy, Roberts continues to climb and slowly becomes what other climbers call a "hard man," an unsentimental mountaineer who can block out tragedy and focus on getting to the top. In appropriately rugged prose, Roberts details his increasingly dangerous ascents as he begins to pioneer new routes on various Alaskan peaks. In one of the best chapters, he tells the story of his team's 1965 climb of Mount Huntington, a "slender triangular pyramid" nine miles southeast of Mount McKinley in Alaska, and their "giddy celebration" upon reaching the top. The feeling doesn't last, though. As they descend, one of the team falls off a narrow precipice with just a "scraping sound, and a spark in the night." This balance of joy and terror is what makes Roberts's book such an exhilarating read and an intense appraisal of a life spent on the edge.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When he was 18, the author witnessed, in Boulder, Colorado, the death of his first climbing companion. Later he was at the scene of a climber's death in Mount Washington, New Hampshire, and a few months after that Roberts saw his friend fall 4,000 feet to his death while exploring a new route in Alaska. The author of 16 other books dealing with mountaineering, Roberts here analyzes his years spent hiking these dangerous trails. He writes that although the "adventures of his writing career" have not replaced the passion for mountaineering that waned in his mid-30s, they have given him something mountaineering never did. He now considers the question of what mountaineering cost him, rather than what it gave him. "Who might I have helped or comforted had my own needs not come first? I wonder whether I might have been a better husband had I not been such a fanatic climber, and a better son to my parents." A book of incredible self-examination and penitence that will captivate readers--climbers and nonclimbers alike. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

This book drew me in from start to finish.
Stephen R. Marsh
Roberts describes in great detail the hardships and drive required to be a successful climber.
R. Spell
Well written, and like usual, I kept a dictionary handy.
Scott Matthies

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on October 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read Roberts book, "Mountain of my Fear" I thought I was in for a great mountaineering read. Instead what I received is an introspective autobiography attempting to describe why he climbed and how his life developed.

Raised in Colorado Roberts spent a substantial amount of time describing teenage influences that had profound effects on his life forever that he continually revisits in this book, a mountain tragedy and a personal tragedy not handled today in the same manner as the 1950/early 60s. His formative education at Harvard in mathematics gets sidetracked by his love for the mountains and the expeditions to Alaska to climb and conquer new peaks. Along the way his life forms not as a mathematician but a writer. Roberts describes in great detail the hardships and drive required to be a successful climber. And yes, he's seen his share of death and as described in the book, been very close to it himself.

The next interesting facet of this book has him at a new-age college in New Hampshire teaching writing and running the outdoors program. Here he meets and helps shape a young obsessed climber, Jon Krakauer. In fact, Roberts takes credit for talking Krakauer out of a life as a carpenter into a career as a budding writer renowned for his book "Into Thin Air."

The final part of the book brings closure to this interesting life and how he drifted away from the dangers of the mountain and why. This introspective look is fascinating as he ties his parents, early girlfriend and climbing partners into the web that is his life. If you have an interest in climbing or are interested in growing up in America from the 50s on, I think this book will be enjoyable. David Roberts is truly one of the great climbing writers of his generation and this is a worthy tribute to his legacy.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Thomas on March 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a climber only in the sense that I have paid guides to lead me up big mountains, which in the climbing world doesn't count for much. But I have been cold and afraid in the mountains, enough to appreciate what Roberts is talking about. A few days before what was my biggest climb, I met a young Argentine who would die a few days later on Alpamayo. We heard the news on the radio our Peruvian porters listened to incessantly (yes, I used porters). Something that has always bothered me about real climbers is their attitude toward risk, which is a euphemism for death. The 'hard man' attitude that Roberts discusses is very real. It is just casually accepted that people die climbing, and that it is worth the risk. Roberts's unique honesty allows the reader to see where the hard man comes from. He does it by painting a fairly painfully unflattering portrait of himself. Maybe even more unflattering than he intended. I am not a very hard man, and I found his description of Ed's death on Mt. Huntington and the subsequent telling of his parents almost unbearably sad. As is his description of his disastrous high school love affair. Somehow, Roberts has managed to write a book that conveys the majesty of the grand ranges, and why climbing breeds obsession, without letting the tragedy, of which there is plenty, fade entirely into the background. He has also ruthlessly kept out the various hackneyed sentiments often found in mountaineering books. Not any Mark Twight type hard man preening here, and the brooding is more under control than in Joe Simpson's later books, though I like them as well. But,when the rat is gnawing, and you're wondering whether maybe your planned route is too ambitious, like maybe fatally so, this is not the book to read. Save it for a chair and a warm fire.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By K. C. Huseonica on September 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was surprised by the openness of David Roberts book. The first that I've read of his works, it revealed what a climber thinks before, during, and after a climb, regardless of its technical difficulty. I found the feelings of climber's spouses, immediate family, and friends to be contradictory, yet aligned in an odd fashion. I thought that Roberts was brave, not only in his climbing, but in sharing his intimate feelings with the world.

Roberts' book also took me into the world of higher education, revealing the politics and how many administrators are stuck in stupid mode.

Despite the descriptive nature of the book, I still wish there were photographs in the book to help me visualize the book's many characters. Roberts' vocabulary helped me to expand mine, as I frequently sought out the dictionary.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Marsh on October 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book drew me in from start to finish. Being an avid climber myself I enjoyed reading about someone else so caught up in the lifestyle. I was swept away to the remote ranges of Alaska fully entertained by his stories of first ascents and failed attempts on some very respectable peaks. Just when I thought the book had climaxed and couldn't get any better, there he was, telling about another gripping climbing trip back to Alaska, or Canada, or a close call in the states. The book is laced with tragedy, both in his life, and his accounts of what has happened to others in the climbing community. Roberts evaluates what climbing has meant to him and what the impact has been on others. You don't have to be a climber to enjoy this book. Is it worth the risk?, read the book and decide for yourself.
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