Archive for Denali

a journal of the plague year [lost September reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2020 by xi'an

Read a (red) book I bought in Chamonix last January (sounds like last century, at the very least!) at the Éditions Guérin bookshop, The Bond, by Simon McCartney, translated in French as The Ghosts from Denali. It starts more or less like a traditional mountain climbing story, with a pair of cocky young climbers attacking a new and difficult route and managing the opening despite severe adverse circumstances, which is what Simon McCartney and Jack Roberts did for the north face of Mount Huntington in Alaska, having run out of food and facing the constant threat of collapsing seracs. It however turns into a inner introspection as McCartney gets stranded on the mythical Eiger Nordwand (just like many before him!) after his large group keeps breaking their Charlet Moser icepicks due to the cold (!) and end up being airlifted. He later manages a Winter climb of the Eiger and reunites with Roberts to attempt the south face of Denali, never climbed before. This is when the book takes off, from the sheer difficulty of the route to the amazing unpreparation of the climbers, to Simon’s cerebral embolism building up and bringing him a hair away from death, to the altruism of several other climbers on the mountain to bring him down from the death zone, especially Bo Kandiko, and to a trauma-induced complete break from climbing when McCartney got out of Anchorage hospital. This is gripping and moving and unbelievable. The book received a Banff Mountain Festival award and no wonder. The story told by McCartney is actually seamlessly completed by diary excerpts by Roberts and Kandiko, where they question their own involvement against the very real danger of dying from staying with McCartney, much more than giving up their own attempt against the deadly mountain. A terrific mountaineering book, truly. As a sad coda, Roberts died ice-climbing Bridal Veil Falls a few days before McCartney’s attempt to reunite with him.

Spent several evenings baking fig jam when returning from the Alps as the fig tree was full! And ended up with a total of 35 jars. Resulting into a full “marmalade closet”, as in the past weeks my mom home-made the same amount of peach jelly and my wife’s mom even more rhubarb marmalade jars. Enough to stand a whole year of lockdown, jam-wise. And ate some of the few but tasty peppers that grew in our garden, for the very first time, despite the welcomed tomato and squash invasion! Also ate a terribly greasy risotto in a supposedly highly noted restaurant…

Started watching Dark on Netflix, a German dark time-travel fiction. But while I enjoyed the complex story, the play of the young actors, and the appeal of watching a show (and a Greek play within the show, with Ariádnê and Thêseús of course!) in German, the endless paradoxes of time-travel and the duration of the series made me stop after a few episodes, the town of Winden keeping most of its mystery for me.

out of the wild

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , on June 25, 2020 by xi'an

Two U of Toronto professors die on Denali

Posted in Mountains, Running, University life with tags , , , , on June 28, 2010 by xi'an

When looking for Radford Neal’s page in the CS department of U of T, I came upon this very sad item of news, namely that (climber and) Professor Avner Magen have been killed last month in an avalanche on Denali, along with Professor Andrew Herzenberg from the Faculty of Medicine at University Health Network. There is a donation site to support Avner’s family.

Into the wild

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , on February 6, 2010 by xi'an

Over the past week, I have been watching Into the Wild with my daughter, one chapter at a time. This is a movie I was eager to see, primarily because most of it takes place in the Denali National Park. The views of the Alaskan wilderness are indeed spectacular and may justify watching the movie per se… The story itself is one of a planned suicide, with a kind of beauty in its relation to wilderness, but a suicide nonetheless. The main character (Alex/Christopher) moves into the Denali wilderness to cut all links with society and parents, and, inevitably, this ultimate rejection of society must meet with death once Alex runs out of bullets, matches or rice. The partial incoherence of his behaviour is well-exposed in the movie, when he burns his dollar bills in front of his useless car before working on a farm and cashing his salary, or when he buries his Thoreau and Walden books before digging them out a few weeks later. The scene where Alex kills a moose for food is a sad signal of how inadapted he is to the wilderness, ending up wasting the whole moose for lack of planning. The last chapter where he tries to get back into society somehow redeems the movie by giving depth to the character and by infusing a longing for alternative choices. His lonely death then does not seem so meaningless as it did in the midst of the movie.

The story is clearly compelling and I wish I had read the Into the Wild book before, as Jon Krakauer is also the writer of Into Thin Air that kept me mesmerised till the end of the book! But I cannot say I find the movie particularly well-done. The filming is unimaginative,  fakely amateurish with cuts of faded family videos and cheap multiple frames, while the acting is not always convincing. (Kristen Stewart is just as terrible as in Twilight!) As written above, the character of Alex only gets convincing when we realise he is doomed. Before that, he seems more like a spoiled child wasting opportunities and blind to the worth of the great people he meets.