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Toma Humar Paperback – May 4, 2009
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Humar raised the bar to a height above the vast majority of other alpinists with his solo climbs on some of the hardest routes imagined with most including their fair share of objective hazards.
Slovenia has given us their share of world class alpinists and Tomaz was one of the best to come from there. Tomo Cesen is discussed some in this book and Tomaz adds his theory of what happened on Lhotse. The eastern block countries are far ahead of most other nations for giving us some of the boldest climbers of the last 20 years.
Some insight on Humar's Nanga Parbat rescue from Americas top alpine climbers House and Anderson. The author does an excellent job with this book and the amount of research needed shows her dedication to her readers with telling all sides from the people interviewed.
I enjoyed this book and read it in two sit ins. The Kindle version was easily readable and even the pictures were excellent.
And I must begin by taking exception to what Ives and others here, including a man named Bonington, all cheer as a "clever construction", that being the tedious interweave of the disaster on the Rupal Face with the rest of Humar's history which does nothing but disorient the reader who no longer can keep straight what arête he is on.
I read this book when its subject was still - perhaps miraculously - alive, and I asked rhetorically if Tomaz can survive in this world wherein he feels the mountains speak to him - literally - and advise whether the route is safe. And camp-follower Netasa, more or less employed by Humar it seems, isn't a psychic - she's psychotic, worse than someone speaking idiocy. I would have pitched her right off the mountain and Humar was foolish for listening to her babel. Unbelievable. Where was a voice of reason in Tomaz's tent, warning him against such nonsense?
Then, too, relying on "ground control" to monitor the route through a telescope, receiving recommendations accordingly, sounds both a violation of the "fair means" ethical strictures test and just plain stupid. (This speaks against the dead, which disturbs me greatly, but there are live people making ascensions right now who must not be led by Humar's example in this instance.) If you're not up to the route finding - which is at least 50% of the game - why bother to climb?
This volume covers an incredible rescue, but not much about the Rupal Face, really. There is also information regarding the other Humar climbs and much of his background, both of which are compelling. For no good reason, Reinhold Messner raises in his FORWARD issues which were off point when his brother disappeared on Nanga Parbat, and for which I can determine no relevance to Humar's record of successes.
McDonald is not an author without blemish, but her BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROPE, Huston's highly regarded biography, must conservatively be ranked many, many times superior to this job, which often doubles back, repeats, gets lost in its own telling, and otherwise slips down the slope. I cannot rationalize these missteps by claiming as Ives does that a close connection between style and content - if any exists -- somehow renders this book a benchmark, and that the changing point of view - I'd say a wildly inconsistent P.O.V. - permits a reader glimpses into Humar's own mind and, apparently, that of the Omniscient.
Nor may I champion some notion that the repeated flashbacks reflect, as Ives maintains, "the immensity of public attention and debate, of private memory and imagination, and of unanswerable questions and mysteries that whirled around the vortex of one of the most surreal episodes in climbing history." Flashbacks are an old idea, and repeated ones usually signal a writer who has not yet fully grasped how to tell her story. It is impossible for me to imagine this one ill choice can serve the many immensities Ives hopes for: to convey public attention, public debate, private memory, private imagination, and not only unanswerable questions and unanswerable mysteries but ones which "whirled around" this admittedly surreal episode's vortex! This asks too much of anything (but it is a very effective cover-the-ground-on-these-subjects-and-maybe-that-will-cover-the-ground.) Here's an underpinning which collapsed under its own weight as it was being set forward.
A Tasker-Boardman nominee? That should have been questionable, and perhaps disrespectful to those historic, immortal figures. Nothing uncertain about "Cinderella Rises" at the end of the volume, however, a muddled mass of sophomoric, psychobabble "analysis" running on and over and back again. And all without any description of any climbing. Is this a text for "Psychology 101"? (which certainly could not withstand any faculty review). Instead, it appears the writer could not determine how to organize her material and so threw in all that had been gathered, letting it sit where it fell. There is no question that psychological and more properly philosophical considerations play high in mountaineering literature, but any treading here must be guarded. Very, very few of us have any credential at all to speak on these issues. (For a list of who might, I refer the reader to the sources set forth in my Amazon review of THE BOYS OF EVEREST.)
On this last descent, we have little else which tells us - even poorly - the story of dear Tomaz (please check Vols. 1997 and 1998 of the American Alpine Journal for two of his reports). Thus, because this book is of him, I recommend it with five stars, and am thankful McDonald undertook the task to give us what she did of this very complex life, now sadly lost to the mountains. (Isolated by bad weather on the South Face of Langtang Lirung, Tomaz was found dead on November 14, 2009. His injuries indicated he had fallen, perhaps nearly 1000 meters. He was 40.) On his long solo climb stretching to eternity, we may wish Tomaz Humar consolidated snows, calm, full moon nights, and challenging summits forever.
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- Engaging, yet objective writing style
- Balanced analysis
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