- Publisher: Mountaineers Books; 1st US THUS edition (June 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0898865395
- ISBN-13: 978-0898865394
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Eric Shipton : The 6 Mountain-Travel Books Hardcover – June, 1985
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"The Six Mountain-Travel Books" brings together Shipton's best travel commentary in a single volume. It includes "Nanda Devi", his account of the 1934 expedition with climbing partner Bill Tilman that first breached the inner sanctum of that previous withheld mountain in Northern India. "Blank on the Map" is Shipton's and Tilman's exploration of the largely unsurveyed areas in the Karakoram north and west of K2 in 1937 and 1939. "Upon That Mountain" is a first autobiographical foray, mostly about Africa and the 1930's expeditions to Everest. "Mountains of Tartary", nominally about Shipton's diplomatic career in Western China, is really the story of short forays into the many mountain ranges of remote Sinkiang Province. The "Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition of 1951" opened up the southern approach that is now the classic route to the top of Everest. "Land of Tempest" is an account of Shipton's ground-breaking exploration of then mostly unknown Patagonia in South America.
Shipton delights the reader with his understated, ironic, and often humorous writing style; he entertains with his descriptive narrative of parts unknown; he enlightens with his thoughtful analysis of how and why people climb and explore. In these pages, the reader can follow Shipton as he works out his pioneering "light" approach to mountaineering and exploring, an ethic much more popular now then in his day. While light expeditions have their limits in that they trade endurance for speed, they leave explorers, in Shipton's view, less insulated from the experience of the environments they travel through.
"The Six Mountain-Travel Books" is very highly recommended both as an excellent history of high skill climbing and exploration and as a thoughtful journey through the motivation to explore wide-open spaces.
You will learn of this iconic figure's life by reading between his lines and paying close attention to remarks about character and personality, but here the focus will be on the travel (secondarily on the climbs); the collection is far from conventional autobiography. (But as some climbers start life stories with a first climb being the bars of their cribs, maybe so much the better.)
I gave the anthology a good work out, at my bedside at the ready for weeks -- no, not due to my ignoring the poor thing but only because of Shipton's dense style. It can be an endless snow slog up an ever steepening slope. And he never saw a detail he didn't love, or five minutes along a valley's basin or over a mountain's pass, that didn't call for his close, step-by-step description down to the last tree, boulder, limestone out-cropping, icy pinnacle, akois, or ram chikor.
Still, Shipton's portraits of the mountains, their human inhabitants, and the history of the ensuing entanglement are first rate, albeit rarely poetic. As moved as this man was while in his favorite, "most fascinating" landscape, he fails to sweep us off our feet with glowing prose about it. Some of Shipton's constructions are adept, but the entire endeavor amounts to a lot of straight forward language packed in 800 nearly margin-less pages.
While this author must be read, I would not again squat, reach, leap, and force my way through all these books in one, long, keep-on-trekkin' setting. So exhausting was the undertaking I was dissuaded from locating the last of Shipton's volumes. I grew tired of his repetitious style, his sometimes autocratic manner, and his inexcusable carelessness and neglect in a variety of matters (which can be the difference between life and death in the environments he bravely traversed).
And where is all the humor we were promised? There is a bit, but not nearly enough to carry us through what we have to say is nearly tedious retelling of yet another exploration that seems -- except for place names -- little different from the others preceding. Now, I have learned enough to be able to draw my own distinctions and to recognize the importance of this expedition or that, but in my pantheon I erect busts of writers who meet this responsibility for the reader, as I see this as their duty.
Nonetheless, this grouping will give you the essential opening of "the Sanctuary" leading to Nanda Nevi, early experience in the Karakoram, and an interesting report on the mountains of Tartary in Central Asia, not generally discussed. Most important, and the very best written, is a thrilling telling of the Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition of 1951 as the fifth book here.
Finally, as a bonus of sorts, you get for no extra cost something labeled "Appendices" which are really more in the nature of addenda-at-length. The first of these (all are compelling) is a section written by Shipton but really Bill Tillman's account of the earlier, 1935 Everest Reconnaissance. We all are now so soured by fights on mountains and "client guiding" -- and for me, ideas of peak bagging, speed climbing, and descent by skiing or parasailing -- reading these stories of what the first men saw and experienced is an eye-opening joy.
With Shipton as your guide and reporter, and the plethora of material this assemblage will provide, make this one selection and your climbing library will be instantly stocked in good style.