- Hardcover: 253 pages
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; 1st edition (October 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805044531
- ISBN-13: 978-0805044539
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,311,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Most Hostile Mountain : Re-Creating the Duke of Abruzzi's Historic Expedition on Mount St. Elias Hardcover – October 1, 1997
The Amazon Book Review
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In 1897 an Italian nobleman--Luigi of Savoy, the duke of Abruzzi--set out to climb North America's second-highest peak, the 18,008-foot Mount St. Elias (known to the native Tlingit people of Alaska as Yasetaca). A century later, the author of A Most Hostile Mountain attempts to recreate this same land-sea journey by sailing north out of Seattle and into the Gulf of Alaska. While Abruzzi traveled with an army's worth of supplies and numerous porters to shoulder creature comforts fit for a duke, Jonathan Waterman chooses the relative quiet of a single companion in his attempt to retrace the duke's historic expedition. Once on the mountain, after a hectic passage via a small sailboat, the climbers endure a variety of difficulties: harsh weather conditions, avalanches, a lack of food. As their circumstances become increasingly dire, Waterman finds refuge in the journals of the duke and his men. Taking his cue from these voices of the past, the author seeks solace in ideals held worthy in the Age of Exploration--a pure desire for adventure and knowledge that transcends the more modern notions of ego-driven success. The result is an engaging narrative that has its crampons firmly imbedded in the ice.
From Library Journal
Luigi Amadeo di Savoia, Duke of Abruzzi, was the first to scale Alaska's Mount St. Elias (18,008') on July 31, 1897. In this centennial celebration, Waterman (Kayaking the Vermilion Sea, LJ 5/15/95) and friend Jeff Hollenbaugh trace his journey beginning with a three-month, 1200-mile approach sailing from Seattle to the base of the mountain. They intend to climb the South Face without the accoutrements and communication devices of modern technology. Unfortunately, 11,000 feet short of the summit they abandon ascent because of insufficient food supplies?rendering presumptuous this book's subtitle. Waterman recounts typical mountaineering experiences?near-fatal avalanches and rock falls, camaraderie made fragile by proximity partnership, the straining of stamina and steely resolve. More fascinating, however, are the interspersed texts derived from accounts and journals of the duke's expedition. Recommended only for libraries specializing in mountaineering or travel literature.?Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ., Montreal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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In his attempt to do justice to the historical accomplishments of the Duke, and to try to experience the mountain on some of the same terms, the author tries to climb the mountain without some the benefits of the technological advances since the Duke's time. He eschews airplanes, for example, and sails a small boat from Seattle up to Alaska then hikes all the way in from the ocean to the base of the mountain. Sounds like the basis for a great story, right? In my opinion, it doesn't live up to its potential.
First, the author's claim to be doing without the technological marvels of our times has a lot of holes in it. Yes, he uses no GPS system to navigate his boat to Alaska; but he does use Loran -- and there are several other similar examples (clothing, boots, etc.). Second, I found his longwinded soul-searching and attempts at self-analysis tiresome and I do not think it added much to the reader's experience. Third, I found his treatment of his partners to be downright insulting. My sense is that he really didn't like his partners much and they didn't like him. I myself would certainly not want to climb with this man. I think I would have loved to climb with the Duke.
Most seriously, I lost interest in his story mostly because I thought his failure to climb the the mountain was largely due to his own poor plans and decisions. He underestimates the amount of food they will need on the mountain (they almost starve to death) but he does bring a large, heavy video camera along to record the climbing. In my opinion, a stupid and vain decision. I doubt very much if the Duke would have made these kinds of mistakes!
When I read a book such as this, I want to admire the people in it, or at least feel that I have learned something significant from the actions of the protagonists. Well, I certainly learned a lot about the Duke and gained an admiration him, but I certainly did not admire the actions of the author; nor do I believe I learned anything of much value from his story.
I thought the book was interesting in the way that I've never read a book that was more like a journal of someone's trip. Also, I never knew that much about mountain climbing before I read the book, but this book taught some important skills in mountaineering. Furthurmore, I like how Jonathan Waterman tells the real truth about people and their weaknesses while in a stressed and uncomfortable condition. The daily routines of a mountaineer is reavealed in this book and I can see why mountain climbing is such a difficult sport and why alpinists are so addicted to this hobby of theirs.
My favorite is when Jonathan and Jeff starts to get irritated at each other and accidents starts to happen. For example, when Jonathan mistakened the yellow gaderade bottle as Jeff's kindness towards him, but really, it was Jeff's bathroom wastes. Also, when Jeff and Jonathan first landed on the shores of Yasetaca, the swarm of mosquitos came buzzing at the two climbers and tried to suck the climbers dry. Desperately, Jonathan sets up their tent and so the two victims hide in the tent. Inside, the climbers watch as the mosquitos try to get past the mosquito netting but the bugs get their needles stuck in the holes. Joyfully, Jeff and Jonathan pull the needles off of the mosquitos as the insects continued to struggle. A good book for the reality reader.