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Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life Paperback – Bargain Price, March 5, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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In hiker's parlance, the person who "breaks trail" is one who leads others across difficult terrain, creating a path as they go. This aptly describes Blum's role, not only in her experiences as a climber, but also as a scientist doing innovative, groundbreaking work. Blum, whose previous book recounted the first women-only climb of Annapurna, here covers a cross section of her life as a climber, from her first experience, as a college student in 1964, to 1993, when she semiretired. Through climbing, she experiences a wide range of emotions, from exhilaration at success to grief over the death of friends. Interspersed between the climbing stories are scenes from her childhood that do much to explain the person she became. This is an engaging, well-written adventure that also serves as a social history of women's roles. It should be required reading for young women of today who haven't experienced the closed doors and closed minds that Blum conquered as a women student, scientist, and climber. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"This splendid book is much more than just a "climbing life." Arlene Blum has the courage -- and the literary skill -- to aim for new heights. Few such autobiographies have mentioned the fragile relationships that exist among high-level mountaineers, including the sexual conflicts that arise when young women and men get together in the wild. On yet another level, Blum delves into her early life to try to discover what led her to become a first-rate scientist and a pathbreaking mountaineer."
-- Steve Roper, author of Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber and other climbing books.

"Breaking Trail is an inspiring and affecting story of struggle and triumph. It is fluent and highly readable and keeps you turning the pages until the very end."
-- Peter Gillman, co-author of The Wildest Dream: The Biography of George Mallory

"A warm, sensitive account of an extraordinarily adventuresome life. Arlene Blum's life and her writing are indeed an inspiration to both men and women. This book is a must read for those who wish to reach the highest level of personal fulfillment."
-- Helen Thayer, author of Polar Dream: The Heroic Saga of the First Solo Journey by a Woman and Her Dog to the Pole

"Breaking Trail shows that Arlene Blum's persistence and determination over time have won out and opened the way to countless other women to excel at climbing around the world."
--Ann LaBastille, author and ecologist

"I stand in awe, respect and gratitude for Arlene Blum's story as recounted in Breaking Trail. Her memoir is aptly named for her pioneering adventures in the surprisingly recently male-dominated world of high altitude mountaineering. I took for granted my right to pursue my climbing dreams and passions until I read of her determination, struggles, and conquests."
-- Sharon Wood, first North American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest

"This is an extraordinary memoir. I was constantly astonished by Blum's achievements - overcoming a difficult family background to become a sane and compassionate human being; achieving academic success in the girl-unfriendly world of the hard sciences; and making an end run around mountaineering sexism by organizing (among other climbs) the successful all-women conquest of Annapurna, one of the most dangerous mountains in the world. I simply inhaled this book."
-- Sherry Ortner, anthropologist and author of Life and Death on Mt. Everest

"Arlene Blum's Breaking Trail is a magnificent and compelling story. Blum's leads the reader into beautiful, exciting, and terrifying world of mountain climbing. Her writing soars. She beautifully conveys the drama, mind set and courage that it takes to go to places where few have ventured, and where fewer have survived. Her story is inspiring. It's as much about leadership, as it is living life fully, and forging through, over, and around obstacles to reach one's goals in life. It's a great book."
--Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica

"Breaking Trail is a compelling memoir by one of mountaineering's most remarkable pioneers. Arlene Blum offers a poignant and riveting personal account of a life of adventure and companionship in exploring and summiting many of the great peaks of the world."
-- Michael Useem, Director, Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton Business School, author of The Leadership Moment and Leading Up

"Good climbers are rare; good climbing stories are even more rare. So this book is a gem: a pioneering climber tells her story with grace and courage and in it she emerges heroic and utterly human. Gripping and heartbreaking, this is a story that will galvanize every reader. "
--Susan Fox Rogers, author of Solo: On Her Own Adventure

"Breaking Trail follows Arlene's route from her childhood, to the halls of academia, to the roof of the world with insightful and inspirational prose. The reason why we climb is never an easy question, yet Arlene searches her soul for her own motivations and in doing so provides a picture (story) that spans her childhood and career as a physicist."
--Conrad Anker, author of The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books (March 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0013L8BRO
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,767,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ellen M. Gibb on July 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Arlene Blum's new book, Breaking Trail, is a book for everyone interested in the experience of high peak mountaineering--plenty of thrills and chills for those who stayed up all night reading Into Thin Air or Touching the Void like I did. However, there is one huge difference with this book--its written with a tenderness of narratorial voice I have not seen in other, more macho mountaineering books. Here, the high peaks

become a metaphor for what all women face when they aspire to dreams outside the suburban marriage with freezer, soccer kids, and SUV. Her voice is intimate, modest, and honest. By the time I finished this book, I felt like we had been hiking together for days. This is not just a running account of a life spent in the highest peaks on earth--it is also the story of an accomplished scientist and social activist who is an inspiring role model for women of any age. She has lived a creative, adventurous, and

uniquely imagined life, rich in adventure, beauty, love, and tragedy. She is the embodiment of: "If you can dream it, you can do it." After I finished the book, I was able to go to her website, where there are twelve slide shows of the climbs she writes about in the book; seeing the color photos of many places and incidents mentioned in the book took my breath away and only deepened my appreciation of this remarkable woman. She was not afraid to follow the deepest currents of her own soul into the mountains at a time when there were virtually no women participating in serious mountaineering (except to cook and make the coffee or truck loads of gear from one base camp to another while the guys made the glamouress sprints up to the summit.) Even having lived through it (being a contemporary of Ms.
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Format: Hardcover
Having read and loved the author's other book, "A Woman's Place", I looked forward to reading this one, knowing that, at the very least, I could expect a well-written book. Well, it is that and much more. It is a memoir that kept me turning its pages, as it provides a peek as to how this highly intelligent and articulate, nice, Jewish girl became a mountaineer with which to contend.

In a macho arena, where women were considered to be mere appendages to the male of the species, when considered at all, the author is surely a trailblazer. With her world famous, women only, expedition to summit Annapurna, she put women on the mountaineering map, letting the world know that a woman's place is on top. Independent and singular in her desire to make her mark, the author has written a memoir that provides insight into her desire to climb mountains, as well as her development as both a person and a woman.

Set across the backdrop of women's changing roles in the social fabric, this memoir is an intimate and compelling look at a life well-lived and filled with achievement in a man's world, as the author is not only a mountaineer but a well-respected scientist known for some ground-breaking research that has had impact on the general public. Neither of these fields was initially receptive to the inclusion of woman, and the author's memoir details her travails in gaining acceptance as an equal, both as a mountaineer and a scientist.

Written with humor and insight, the author creates an intimate memoir that chronicles her development into the person that she became. This is a memoir that will keep the reader engaged and turning the pages of this wonderful book. Highly enjoyable, those who are interested in why one would climb mountains, as well as those who enjoy well-written, interesting memoirs, will love this book. Bravo!
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book at an author reading in Berkeley, and it's taken me 3 months to finish. The stories are often quite fascinating. Blum covered an amazing amount of ground, since graduating from Reed in the 1960s. She successfully weaves together her research in physical chemistry with climbing, and reveals that her greatest insight into protein folding came to her while viewing a frozen pile of rocks on top of a mountain. This book documents her strength in the face of flagrant sexism on the part of many climbing teams. It is painful to read about her being excluded from the summit team after an exhausting slog to climb an 8K mountains. Her stories show how resilient and resourceful she was. Even if a trip results in the death of teammates, or the icky fights reminiscent of roommate squabbles, Arlene Blum would go back to the maps, and plan another amazing voyage around the planet. Besides her original Endless Winter, she also organized and carried out a trans-Himalayan hike, and managed to travel across the European Alps with her infant daughter and Aussie husband. The accounts of Berkeley were particularly interesting to me: Arlene records her experience carrying the Torah at a Beyt Chesed high holiday service, her success founding the Himalayan fair at Live Oak Park, and little nuggets about jogging in the hills.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are just a dozen or two books that I've read and treasured, not only for their excellence, but also because they're like no other. This is one of those rare reading experiences. Blum is a female mountain climber writing about her successes and failures, her highs and lows. You don't have to be a crusader for women's rights, nor do you need to know or care the first thing about mountaineering to be entranced by this magical book.

Blum has an amazing story to tell, and she tells it like Scheherezade--every episode leaving the reader impatient for the next chapter. In the end the book is about the triumph of the human spirit, and you don't need to be a climber to appreciate it. Buy it and open it--Blum will do the rest.
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