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Customer Review

on July 4, 2012
This book is a well-written story and the the parts of the book about the author's climb, and his self extraction from a deep crevasse on the Emmons Glacier are detailed and very interesting. Based only on those aspects I would give it five stars. But overall this book really bothers me - something is really missing. This was a tragedy, but a preventable one. I wish that he had written less about his personal pain and guilt and more about the decisions that led to the accident. The author apparently decided to take the commercial route, and make this book, and his subsequent career as a paid motivational speaker about overcoming difficulties.

The author never admits that falling into a crevasse was not just a matter of "fate" or "bad luck." He and his partner made some serious errors in judgement, and that the accident could have been avoided. I really don't recommend this book if if you are thinking about climbing Rainier - there is nothing helpful at all here. It is puzzling that the author, whose life revolved around mountaineering, doesn't seemed concerned even a tiny bit with the prevention of another tragic death of a young person in a similar situation. I guess that just doesn't sell well. In contrast, the American Alpine Club's annual "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" is "Published with the intention of informing climbers and preventing subsequent accidents... each report includes a detailed analysis of what went wrong and what precautions could be taken to avoid a similar accident."

The climbers' most serious judgement error was the decision to glissade down the Emmons Glacier because they were tired. This was a pretty big mistake - experienced and prudent mountaineers do not do this. One of the first things the mountaineering bible "Freedom of the Hills" says about the technique of glissading is: "DO NOT GLISSADE IN CREVASSED TERRAIN". Glissading has been the cause of many mountaineering accidents. By glissading, they had to remove their crampons which provide a high degree of stopping power on the glacier, and they had to deviate from the beaten climbers' path which switch-backed down the glacier. These things exposed them to greater risk. They also had only short technical ice axes which reduce ability to self-arrest during a fall compared to general alpine axes. According to the author, there were more than 20 other people descending the same route on the Emmons that day, and none of them fell into a crevasse. None of the 15-20 climbers descending behind them even noticed that the someone had punched a hole through a snow bridge because they were off the beaten path. Other errors in judgement were made before that, including not stopping at Thumb Rock, the usual 2nd day campsite on the Liberty Ridge route. By pushing on hard until well after dark that day at least one them was completely exhausted, and that led to a decision to not carry full packs from Liberty Cap over the summit and to not descend by walking all the way down to Camp Schurman (both are the normal procedures).

I think the author could address this important flaw if there is another edition of this book, making it a more honest and fair story of a tragedy.

My background: I'm a public health professional. I previously worked as a seasonal NPS Ranger at Mt. Rainier five seasons, participated in mountain crevasse rescue operations and search and rescue, and climbed Rainier 8 times, six times as the trip leader, by six different climbing routes. Update 2013: Make that nine times on summit, and seven times as trip leader. Worst mishap on our Aug 2012 climb was one of our party (a novice) mildly sprained his ankle while descending.
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