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Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier Paperback – April 10, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mount Rainier, North America's biggest volcano, looms over Seattle like an invitation to... adventure? Disaster? Discovery? It's all of the above for Bruce Barcott, a Seattle writer who captures the mountain from multiple angles in this luminous biography that defines Rainier's landscape to be like none other on the continent. By turns witty and introspective, Barcott's trip to the top of the glacier-clad peak is filled with history, scientific observation, and a divided personal attachment that struggles to make sense of the mountain and its effect on the surrounding land and people. The Measure of a Mountain is a literate, entertaining view of a totemic Northwest landmark. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A Seattle journalist sets out to write a natural history of Mt. Rainier in Washington State but finds that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man interested in mountains must want to climb to the top. While researching the mountain, Barcott happened to interview Scott Fischer, a climbing guide who shortly afterward perished in a sensationalized accident on Mt. Everest (see Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, LJ 4/1/97). Trying to make sense of Fischer's death turns the story from a standard natural history into a distinctly anti-macho example of mountaineering literature, as a bookish, gregarious man without any natural daredevil impulses contemplates climbing (or possibly not climbing) the 14,410'. peak. A darkly humorous review of mountaineering memoirs notes that "once an author is on the mountain, there's no limit to what he'll suffer for his reader," but that "unlike any other sport, mountaineering demands that its players die." Although the anecdotes about Mt. Rainier will be of regional interest, this appealing adventure story about a reluctant adventurer will please many readers.?Amy Brunvand, Univ. of Utah Lib., Salt Lake City
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570615217
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570615214
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Breit on January 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm a climber, and I enjoyed the book. There were some bits that weren't terribly interesting, but much of it was. The chapter on meadow restoration was fascinating. Another chapter illuminates something I've long wondered about: why you so often see insects and spiders on the snow thousands of feet above their apparent habitat. It'll be a while before I scoop up a handful of snow to suck on while climbing!
The history is well done; the story the early history of the park were very interesting. And his is the most complete account of the Army airplane crash into the Tacoma Glacier that I've ever read.
He mentioned a couple of other books that I've been grateful to learn about: "The unpublished journals of John Muir" (published now, of course) and "Mountain Fever", an account of the early ascents of Mt. Rainier, both of which I've got now, and one of which I've read.
I feel I've learned something fairly profound from this book. He climbed to the summit and still doesn't appreciate the urge that drives people to do that sort of thing. He felt nothing at the summit, or at Camp Muir, except an emptiness. When I climb, it's always a deeply meaningful experience: last time I was on the summit, I called my wife on the cell phone, and was actually in tears. Each time I climb Mt. Rainier, even if it's just a hike up to Camp Muir, I feel on the descent a tremendous reluctance to leave, and keep looking back for one last look of the icefalls, the massive, serene, intricately shaped rock formations. For me, climbing Mt. Rainer is like visiting a lover, and each time I leave, to return to my life, my job, my wife, the question "but when will I get to see you again?" looms largest.
So I might be expected to reject his experience, or his interpretation.
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Format: Paperback
For anybody that is infatuated with Mt. Rainier, this is the book for you. Living in the Pacific Northwest, Rainier is a fact of life for all of us. On sunny, clear days when it towers over the downtown seattle skyline, we say that the "mountain is out" and cannot help but steal glances at its mighty presence.
It is readily apparent that this book is a labor of love for the author. He revels in any and all information about the mountain that he can track down. All of his studies of the mountain add flavor to his own wanderings. He sees in the mountain all of the history, geology, native folklore, and danger that it deserves. His respect is palpable and his experiences are priceless. If you want to experience Rainier in a different way than you ever have before, you need to check this out.
This book is well written, an easy read, and highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Bruce Barcott writes as if you were in the room speaking with him. His style is friendly, to the point (often blunt) descriptive and frequently flowery. He uses such descriptive phrases that I was often left rolling on the floor, tears of laughter flowing from my eyes.
It's hard to categorize this book. It's not really about climbing mountains, though there is plenty of that. It's not really about geology, though there is plenty of that as well. It's not about ecology, though ecologists will certainly connect with Barcott, and it's not really about history, even though there are lots of interesting historical tidbits sprinkled throughout the book. The book is sort of a mish mash of all these subjects that Barcott ultimately ties in with the mountain that defines Washington State, and Seattle in particular: Rainier.
It's hard to say what part of the book I enjoyed the most. I really enjoyed the stories about the mountain's "real" name. Even though I grew up in Federal Way, Washington I never knew about the battle waged by Tacoma in trying to rename Rainier with it's original (or at least one of them) Indian name. There are other interesting historical footnotes like the military plane carrying marines home for the Christmas holidays that slammed into the mountain. And, of course, there are stories about early climbers like Muir.
Barcott describes lots of his hikes around Rainier, particularly the wonderland trail, and he ends the book with an account of his climb to the summit. As it turned out, I had climbed Rainier in June of the same year Barcott climbed it (he climbed in July) and so it was interesting comparing my recollection of the trip with his.
Barcott tries hard not to come across as the typical macho, climb-or-die mountaineer.
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By A Customer on July 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think if I were stranded on a deserted island, I would want a copy of this book as well as all those Dostoevsky's I've always promised myself I would read one day. Being an avid climber, this is probably my favorite book of all times, and the book I am always sure to purchase as a gift for others to enjoy. This is NOT a climbing guide or a book just for the climbing community (although we love it). This is a book for anyone who loves the Pacific Northwest, mountains, mountain weather, great stories of adventure and tragedy, geology, hight altitude bugs, plants, animals, and good humor. Each chapter unfolds an entire diverse topic. You'll find yourself going back and reading your favorite chapters.
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