Archive for Heckmair

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.

Paciencia on the Eiger Nordwand (8a)

Posted in Mountains, pictures with tags , , on September 2, 2013 by xi'an

When I saw this item of news about David MacLeod and Calum Muskett bagging the hardest route on the mythical north face of the Eiger, I could not resist posting this incredible picture. (The route ‘Paciencia’ was first climbed by Ueli Steck and Stephan Siegrist in 2003; they then repeated the climb in free mode in 2008.) It is amazing to see climbers at such levels (one 8a pitch and six 7c pitches!) climbing on such a demanding mountain…

Some of my favourite books

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2009 by xi'an

books3Last night, I took some of my favourite books out of my bookcases: here they are from bottom to top (picture-wise!). Obviously, they are not all comparable in terms of literary “quality”, but they are books I like to re-read from time to time or books that impacted me the first time I read them…

  • Heckmair’s My Life, already mentioned in that post about Messner’s book, for the heart-stopping tale of the climb of the Eigerwand. There are better written (more literary) books about mountaineering, but this remains my favourite;
  • Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that I read so often it is almost virtual by now. This is not here as my favourite fantasy book, but simply as one of my favourite books, because it subsumes the [fantasy] genre into a larger one, borrowing from Nordic sagas as well as Celtic folklore and German tales;
  • Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, which is the most metaphysical love story he wrote. If I had only one book to carry around that would be the one! (I also love very much his novel Brighton Rocks, another unusual and dark love story);
  • Céline’s Voyage au bout de la Nuit, also discussed in that earlier post, which is for me the most impressive French novel of the xxth century, inventing a new style and seeing beyond the current ideologies;
  • Joyce’s Dubliners, so uniquely modern as well, especially the first short story, The Dead, with its conclusion of quiet despair. John Huston made a movie of it, where he superbly managed to convey the different currents in the story;
  • Hugo’s Quatrevingt-treize, his novel about the French Revolution (and the Breton counter-revolution), with an unforgivable trio of characters, the father, the son, and the defrocked priest, as well as a superb style. Certainly my favourite novel from Hugo with L’Homme qui rit;
  • Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, for translating both the horror of the war and the ultimate feeling of camaraderie only extreme situations can induce (also a favourite of my son in his rare excursions outside fantasy). The following novels by Remarque like The Road Back and Drei Kameraden carried the same feelings of hopeless friendship, but with less intensity;
  • Chandler’s The Long Good Bye, for, if you think Chandler wrote detective stories, read him again! This is a very deep and sad novel, mostly about jilted friendship, with a detective side that is quite incidental;
  • Dostoievski’s Brothers Karamazov, the quintessential Russian novel with the triptych of brothers as an idealisation of humanity and the undercurrent of spiritual questioning;
  • Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, for the bittersweet taste of wasted opportunities and things past;
  • Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, a literary genre by itself…

(to be continued for the remainder of the book pile…)