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The Challenge of Rainier: A Record of the Explorations and Ascents, Triumphs and Tragedies, on the Northwest's Greatest Mountain Paperback – June 1, 1979


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mountaineers Books; 3 Reprint edition (June 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0916890708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0916890704
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,203,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Retired for some 30 years from the U.S. Geological Survey, Dee, at age 94, spends much of his leisure time painting alpine landscapes and pictorial landform maps, and preparing sketches that appear in numerous climbers guidebooks and autobiographies

Born to Dutch immigrant parents in Los Angeles in 1918, Dee Molenaar spent his youth exploring the seashores, mountains, and deserts of Southern California. He extended his climbing horizons to the Pacific Northwest where he spent several years as summit guide and park ranger at Mount Rainier. After climbing Rainier some 50 times via 15 routes, including three "firsts," and traveling the park's high country for many years, in 1971 he authored The Challenge of Rainier, the award-winning and continually updated "definitive work" on the peak's climbing history. In 2011 the book was redesigned for a Special 40th Anniversary Edition.

During World War II Molenaar served as photographer in the U.S. Coast Guard in the Aleutians and Western Pacific. In 1950 he earned a B.Sc. in geology at the University of Washington--and a "Big W " in pole-vaulting, He then served briefly as civilian advisor in the Army's Mountain and Cold Weather Training Command at Camp Hale, Colorado and Camp Drum, New York. His career in geology took him to Alaska, Colorado, Utah, and Washington, where he retired from the USGS in 1983. Molenaar has climbed mountains throughout the western U.S., Canada, Alaska, the Alps, and Himalaya,and geology- and map-oriented treks to Mount Everest and Peru. He participated in major expeditions, in 1946 to Alaska's 18,100-foot Mt. St. Elias, world's highest coastal peak, and in 1953 to K2, on the famed but tragedy-marred American attempt led by Dr. Charlie Houston.

An important part of Molenaar's climbing pack has been a small box of watercolors, with which he has painted mountain scenes from below sea level in Death Valley to 25,000 feet on K2--the world's highest Earth-bound artistic effort. Dee's love of the high, open world of rock and ice and fringing meadow zone is reflected in his watercolors, oils, and pencil sketches, which are in private collections throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, New Zealand, Russia, and China. His maps and artwork appear in state park, and Forest Service and Park Service exhibits, ski-area brochures and numerous climbers' guides and autobiographies. In his "retirement" Dee continues in his artwork, and writing and lecturing about his mountain travels.

In April this year Dee was honored by The American Alpine Club by induction into the club's "Hall of Mountaineering Excellence" and in May by The Mountaineers club in Seattle by presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dee and Colleen, his long-supportive wife of nearly 60 years, have a daughter and two sons, and granddaughter and three grandsons and live in a 1930s vintage home on rural acreage in southern Kitsap County, Washington.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Timothy G. Gerlitz on July 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
Molenaar makes a detailed records analysis of the many accidents that have occurred on this massive mountain. For example, the guy who slid a thousand feet in his down booties trying to catch a lid that fell off of his cooking pot. Weird! Also, he details the tragedies with thoughtful suggestions. Our team studied this book before our climb so we would be aware of climbing errors that others have made. I think this is pretty much considered a Rainier classic by now...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert B. Ellis (r.b.ellis@usa.net) on May 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an unforgettable history of Mt. Rainier, its pioneering and more recent explorers of trails to the summit, its geology and natural environment, and its inevitable human disasters. Molenaar's many explanatory sketches of climbing routes and his inclusion of numerous historic photos of famed climbers, guides, and ascents help immensely to illustrate the absorbing text. As one who is intimately familiar both as a guide, an artist, a scientist, and a world-famous mountaineer, he is uniquely fitted to write this story--one which anyone contemplating an ascent of "the mountain" could hardly do without--and he has succeeded beyond measure.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James Champa on April 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Dee Molenaar eschews the glib, self-serving, and obnoxious style so prevalent in this genre. Instead, Molenaar presents a chronicle of human history on "The Mountain" that is well written, informative, and self-effacing. He barely touches his own remarkably impressive mountaineering achievements and I am hopeful he publishes his memoirs soon. Further, it is a pleasure to read a writing style reflecting a generation which held manners and chivalry with esteem. Indeed, there is an element of anachronism in this revised edition, and it is worth preserving. I am honored that my copy is signed by the author!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brad Allen on March 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
All too often we climbers get all caught up in ropes and crampons, figure 8 knots and ice tools, yet mountains can represent so much more. To climb a mountain like Rainier, a mountain simply referred to as "The Mountain" seems, to me, to require a little bit deeper understanding than just where to rest on the top of the DC. Dee Molenaar introduces you to The Mountain in a way that gives it history, depth, and character.

There are many stories in this book that take place throughout the history of climbing the mountain. Dee Molenaar was there (he was a guide and ranger in the 40's and 50's) and what he has not learned first hand, he researched very well. This is a man who loves the mountain, and it shows. His beautiful hand-drawn illustrations give just a hint of what is up there. Another fun part is learning the stories behind the many names of the features you climb past. Just why is it called "Cadaver Gap" anyway?

There are many great stories and facts in here, but two of the very best are: The map of the steam caves and tunnels on page 187. I have never seen this any other place and it is accurate. Make a copy, put it in a Ziploc bag and take to the summit. The entrances to the caves are just where he says. The second is the story of Delmar Fadden's winter ascent in 1936 in chapter 25. How can you not love this poem: "If I knew, My hand of fate, Would I do - or hesitate." He didn't.

Read this book and tell stories all the way up and down the mountain. It might even distract you and your partners some from the pain in your chest from breathing so darn hard.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Courie on December 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
Dee Molenaar's "The Challenge of Rainier: A Record of the Explorations and Ascents, Triumphs and Tragedies, on the Northwest's Greatest Mountain" is a comprehensive history of the exploration of Washington's Mount Rainier. Molenaar was a famous climber and park ranger on Rainier and was a participant or observer of many of the exploits in this book.

Molenaar begins with a short background on the mountain - its geology, climate, and ecology. Then he recounts the history of the early attempts to climb the mountain, highlighting many of the men with the now-famous names that now adorn the mountain and area (Longmire, Kautz, Emmons, etc.). He continues to tell the stories of the other "firsts" as each climbing route on the mountain was opened, and many of his accounts are based on contemporary magazine or newspaper accounts, often augmented by interviews or correspondence with the participants. Molenaar also tells of many unusual occurrences on the mountain (such as the landing of a small plane on the summit, or the discovery and exploration of the ice caves in the crater).

The book also includes a list of all of the first climbs, major events, and even the major tragedies on the mountain, so it serves as an excellent resource as well.

Although a bit dated and at times repetitive (as each climb is recounted in detail), this book is an excellent history of Mount Rainier climbing. Anyone with an interest in climbing Mount Rainier would enjoy this book for the history it tells.
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