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"Beyond the Mountain" by
"Beyond the Mountain" by Steve House
"22,000 feet on the Rupal Face, Nanga
Parbat, Pakistan: August 15, 2004. I take a deep breath and push the honed edge
of the knife against the rope. It doesn't cut. I whetted the edge for just this
reason. Frustrated, I look at the small knife in the palm of my mitten. I have
carried this knife upwards for four days, on a climb where every ounce counts
both towards and against my own survival. The rope is sacred, both a symbol and
the truest expression of partnership, but if I can cut it Bruce and I can rid
ourselves of four pounds and climb to the summit."
"And with that Steve House begins his new
book, Beyond the Mountain, the latest title from Patagonia Books. In the
foreword, Reinhold Messner says, "[Steve] is at the top of mountaineering. He
climbs the right routes on the right mountains in a time when everyone is
climbing Everest. He is also a great storyteller: he tells about doing, not
about morals or lessons." Beyond the Mountain is available now from
Patagonia.com and other online booksellers. Steve will soon be embarking on a
20-city book tour to promote Beyond the Mountain with readings, signings and
slide shows. Details are still being solidified but we can share dates and times
for the first seven stops. Hit the jump to see when and where you can share an
evening with celebrated alpinist Steve House."
'Beyond the Mountain' by Steve House
Acclaimed climber tells all in harrowing detail
By Bette Erickson For the
October 28, 2009
Author Steve House has done what many
of us won't ever do in our lifetime: He has climbed some of the highest and most
difficult mountains in the world and has written about those experiences in
House lays it all out in his book "Beyond the
Mountain" (Patagonia Books, $29.95). If you're not a fan of the sport of gritty,
harrowing rock climbing, Steve House's book may not interest you in the
slightest. Although, if you or someone you love is one of those athletic, daring
rock climbing enthusiasts, this book will have you teetering on the edge of a
The adventure-seeking climber writes a compulsively human-scale
narrative--sometimes in excoriating detail. When House describes the snow
conditions, readers want to reach for a coat and quickly find shelter. As
example, House describes his near fatal fall into a snowy crevasse in 1996 on
the Nant Blanc Glacier. He notes how he did not tell others where he would be
climbing that day and his terror in dying alone, buried forever in the ice.
The book is composed of easy diary-style anecdotes detailing his successful
and not so successful summit attempts. Readers will appreciate the selected
glossary and the numerous maps. The author's many stories are fresh and
authentic, yielding cinematic speed and compactness. Good writing and honesty
characterize House's narrative. It helps mightily that he knows what he writes.
Of particular interest is his obsession with the spectacular Rupal Face of Nanga
Parbat in Pakistan.
To readers' great joy, it is clear House respects
the rugged and remote landscapes he frequents--there's not a hint of conquering
the mountain going on. House writes, "Do not mistakenly assume that these
portraits exalt courage, bravery, skill, or intelligence. Though these qualities
bear some part, so do fear, inadequacy, and compromise."
describes a climb with two others in which he did not have the pump for the fuel
bottle. In the stark scene sits a harsher implication: Without a fuel pump they
have no stove, which means they cannot melt ice to make water. Their climb is
doomed. They will not reach the summit and must turn around. His colleagues have
accepted his mistake and forgiven him, even chuckling about it. House writes how
this reaffirms the value of partnership.
The author tells us in real
terms what it's like to sacrifice conventional, mainstream goals to do these
climbs all over the world. "Knowing my goals are solely mine, I scoff at those
who went to grad school, or took so-called real jobs. That is the ultimate
sellout: to work for the man," he writes.
It's not all the death-defying
climbing routes though, that buoys House's text: It's his resilience. His
adventurous climbing is matched by his caution and thoughtfulness. He asks,
"Where is the line, what risks are acceptable? What price am I willing to pay?"
Hiking and climbing enthusiasts know deeply what House means when he writes,
"We're in heaven: a land of mountains and ridges, sculpted by wind and snow, a
paradise devoid of any souls but our own."
House's "Beyond the Mountain"
is raw, funny, and tragic, but never forced. Above all else, this is a story of
goals fueled by energy, rewards, and triumphs meshed with soul-baring
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