What with the news being abuzz with Mount McKinley fuss, really enjoyed this, from former Army Ranger Andrew Exum’s Twitter:
Here it is:
This one prompted me to pick up a book I’d been hearing about for awhile. Wade Davis has been featured on Helytimes before.
The opening chapter of this book is intense, vivid writing about the British experience on the Western Front during World War I. Thought I’d read enough about that horror show: Robert Graves and Paul Fussell and Geoff Dyer. Maybe the guy who hit me in the guts the hardest was Siegfried Sassoon, in part because of what a groovy idyllic life got catastrophically ruined for him.
But Wade Davis makes it all new again. One paragraph will do:
Click here if you want to see a photo of Mallory’s dead body, discovered in 1999, seventy five years after he was lost on Everest. Only halfway through Davis’ book, at the moment I’m deep in Tibet suffering along on the painstaking surveying expeditions.
A character keeps popping like a fox into the story and then disappearing — a rival mountaineer, the Duke Of Abruzzi.
(You can read about Abruzzi, why I’d be interested in a duke from there here.) What a life. Says Wiki:
He had begun to train as a mountaineer in 1892 on Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa (Italian Alps): in 1897 he made the first ascent of Mount Saint Elias (Canada/U.S., 5,489 m). There the expedition searched for a mirage, known as the Silent City of Alaska, that natives and prospectors claimed to see over a glacier. C. W. Thornton, a member of the expedition, wrote: “It required no effort of the imagination to liken it to a city, but was so distinct that it required, instead, faith to believe that it was not in reality a city.”
Another witness wrote in The New York Times: “We could plainly see houses, well-defined streets, and trees. Here and there rose tall spires over huge buildings which appeared to be ancient mosques or cathedrals.”
If you’re climbing K2 you’re liable to be on the Abruzzi Spur:
Late in life:
In 1918, the Duke returned to Italian Somaliland. In 1920, he founded the “Village of the Duke of Abruzzi” (Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi orVillabruzzi) some ninety kilometres north of Mogadishu. It was an agricultural settlement experimenting with new cultivation techniques. By 1926, the colony comprised 16 villages, with 3,000 Somali and 200 Italian (Italian Somalis) inhabitants. Abruzzi raised funds for a number of development projects in the town, including roads, dams, schools, hospitals, a church and a mosque. He died in the village on 18 March 1933. After Italian Somaliland was dissolved, the town was later renamed to Jowhar.
Let’s skip to the best part of any Wikipedia page, “Personal Life:”
In the early years of the twentieth century the Abruzzi was in a relationship with Katherine Hallie “Kitty” Elkins, daughter of the wealthy American senator Stephen Benton Elkins, but the Abruzzi’s cousin King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy refused to grant him permission to marry a commoner. His brother, Emanuele Filiberto, to whom Luigi was very close, convinced him to give up the relationship. His brother later approved of young Antoinette “Amber” Brizzi, the daughter of Quinto Brizzi, one of the largest vineyard owners in northern Italy. In the later years of his life, Abruzzi married a young Somali woman named Faduma Ali.
Here is a picture of the Duke of Abruzzi:
That was taken by Vittorio Sella.
The high quality of Sella’s photography was in part due to his use of 30×40 cm photographic plates, in spite of the difficulty of carrying bulky and fragile equipment into remote places. He had to invent equipment, including modified pack saddles and rucksacks, to allow these particularly large glass plates to be transported safely. His photographs were widely published and exhibited, and highly praised; Ansel Adams, who saw thirty-one that Sella had presented to the US Sierra Club, said they inspired “a definitely religious awe”.
Hey again I just yank photos and stuff from books from all over — not sure if that’s like an ok practice but this is a non-profit site, try to credit everyone, the whole point is that maybe you will want to go look at/read the originals.
I like watching movies about mountain climbing, and I think I’ve seen all the ones avail on Netflix Instant.
1) Touching The Void
See Touching The Void. One of the best documentaries, period. Incredible story, great twists, so intense but also there’s a lovable semi-schlub who got caught up in things.
Very cool. Doc/reenactment about the first successful Everest ascent. Worth watching just for the fashion, the style on these guys was rad.
A great story of internal competition as well, as the team members were vying to be the guy who got to make the final ascent. The brash New Zealanders against the stuffy English public school guys. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing such cool examples of calm badassery. Hadn’t occurred to me that Hillary, who in his old age was usually portrayed as a kindly old hero, was also of course an extremely intense, driven, and competitive athlete, more Kobe than Dalai Lama.
There’s lots too on the great John Hunt, who organized the expedition.
Also has some of the clearest visualizations of Everest’s geography I’ve seen. You can really wrap your head finally around, like, where the Khumbu ice fall is.
Some great shots of old school climbing. But it’s set in 1936, it’s in German, and the characters are not not Nazis enough to really get behind.
4) The Summit
Compelling characters, a good story, kind of frustratingly told. Odd editing choices botch a compelling narrative of how fuckup x fuckup x fuckup + misfortune = catastrophe.
5) Everest IMAX
Some cool shots I guess but this is elementary stuff. We’re past this.
Would most like to have on Netflix:
The Blue Light
K2. What is this movie? It started as a play?
In Puerto Natales, Chile, I came across some issues of a magazine called Rock & Ice.
I looked at two issues, from eighteen years apart. Both had incredible stories.
Take, for example, the story about Basque mountaineer Edurne Pasaban, the first woman to climb all fourteen eight-thousand foot mountains in the world (the first one she did was Everest).
What about her affair with her mentor, Silvio Mondinelli?
Ladies, do not let your man attempt Kangchenjunga with this minx.
There was another great story about Hans Kraus, King of the Gunks, who as a boy in Switzerland had James Joyce as an English tutor:
“Ya,” says Kraus, whose sharp wit is still expressed with a thick Austrian accent. “But he didn’t do a goot chob, dit he?”
As a young doctor Kraus adapted remedies he learned from circus performers. Later he lunched with President Eisenhower. From wiki:
Kraus’s medical records show that by the time of Kennedy’s death in Dallas, using exercise, Kraus had virtually cured Kennedy of his lifelong back pain.Kraus’s White House medical records also contain several entries about Kennedy’s back corset, which Kennedy had worn since Harvard. As Kraus wrote in the medical records, Kraus had grown convinced that the corset was impeding Kennedy’s recovery and that Kennedy needed permanently to stop wearing it. Finally, in October 1963, Kennedy told Kraus that he would stop wearing his corset permanently in January 1964. Several leading presidential historians, including James Reston and Robert Dallek, have theorized that Kennedy might have survived Dallas if he had not been wearing his corset.
Una’s Tits, also known as Cape Renard Tower, are two towers of basalt, each topped by a cap of ice, guarding the northern entrance to the Lemaire Channel on the Antarctic Peninsula… they are officially named “Una’s Tits” and are identified as such on navigation charts.
Una was a woman living in Stanley, Falkland Islands who was working for what is now the British Antarctic Survey.
Flickr user Liam Quinn says this about Una:
named after the Falklands office secretary who would have been one of the last women seen by British Antarctic staff around 1950.
Three diligent minutes of internet searching leaves me without a last name, and I think I prefer it that way.
Photo from wikipedia, via this great category.
One thing led to another and I got to reading about Finis Mitchell:
In 1906, as a young boy, Finis came to the Wind River Range [in Wyoming] with his father in a boxcar along with the rest of his family… Not bowing down to the fierce obstacles wielded by a stark and barren land with winters lasting 9 months a year, Finis spent the next 7 years carefully carrying five-gallon cans of water and wild trout on horseback over steep rugged trails to more than 300 remote Wyoming lakes. Due to the glacial topography of the upper mountains, these lakes had no native populations of fish. These isolated lakes, which had never seen a trout before, began to team with these newcomers. Miraculously, as though knowing the way, these fish migrated to over 700 more lakes in the upper mountains. With his life-long friend and wife Emma, he carved a life in this unknown wilderness.
Here’s a photo, from this Forest Service website, of Finis and Emma:
During the Depression, he and his wife stocked lakes in the Wind River Range with over 2.5 million trout. He served in the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1955 to 1958. At the age of 67 he retired from his job as a railroad foreman and dedicated himself full-time to exploring and writing about the Wind River Range of mountains…
…At the age of 73, while on a glacier, he twisted his knee in a snow-covered crevasse. He hacked crude crutches out of pine wood and hobbled 18 miles to find a doctor, and was able to resume climbing until the age of 84, when further injury to the knee from a fall put an end to his solo climbing career.
Here’s a quote from Finis:
A mountain is the best medicine for a troubled mind. Seldom does man ponder his own insignificance. He thinks he is master of all things. He thinks the world is his without bonds. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only when he tramps the mountains alone, communing with nature, observing other insignificant creatures about him, to come and go as he will, does he awaken to his own short-lived presence on earth.
The Wind River Range:
Finis Mitchell is of course not to be confused with Finesse Mitchell:
Caspar David Friedrich.
By 1820, he was living as a recluse and was described by friends as the “most solitary of the solitary”. Towards the end of his life he lived in relative poverty and was increasingly dependent on the charity of friends. He became isolated and spent long periods of the day and night walking alone through woods and fields, often beginning his strolls before sunrise.