Review of “Mountains and Desire”

As a reader who loves mountaineering books, but could never do such a thing, this book was a fantastic look at the reasons why so many people take the risk to make dangerous climbs such as Everest, K2 and the “Free Solo” climb.  Here is my review of “Mountains and Desire”

REVIEW:  Ever since George Mallory gave his famous quote “Because it’s there” when asked why he would climb Mt. Everest, that answer, or very close variations of this answer, has been part of every climber’s reason to take the chance and attempt to scale not only Everest, but so many other dangerous mountains and cliffs.  This book by Margret Grebowicz not only explores why this drives so many people but also explores the future of the sport as social, environmental and economic changes have affected attitudes toward mountaineering.  

When Grebowicz started the book by making connections to the culture of climbing to various movies, it felt like this would be a scholarly research book with a lot of theories with facts to back them up, but that would not be a fair categorization.  While yes, it has this quality throughout the book, there are so many different ways Grebowicz expresses the ways in which climate change and capitalism have changed many of these expeditions.  This is especially true for Everest – for example, the complaints of the debris left behind on the commercial climbs that are very popular, but it also is true for other climbs and mountains.  Two examples are her excellent chapter on K2, considered to be far more dangerous a climb than Everest and Alex Honnold’s “Free Solo” climb – both a narrative and a discussion on the movie.

Another reason why it would not be correct to simply label this book as a scholarly type is because some of the passages are truly entertaining and thought-provoking.  One in particular that stuck with me was when she quoted Pam Sailor’s work on the philosophy of climbing.  Sailors is quoted in the book as writing about “two types of climbers, summiteers and mountaineers.”  The former is more goal-oriented and self-oriented while the latter is more process-oriented and “may show moral responsibility for the welfare of others.”  This is just one of the many passages on the thoughts and psychology behind the climbing culture.

Any reader who enjoys books on climbing or mountains will surely enjoy this excellent book that is both excellent for its writing on the history of the sport as well as its current state and what the future may hold from the perspective of the minds of those who participate. 

I wish to thank Repeater Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

LINK: Mountains and Desire: Climbing vs. the End of the World (Audible Audio Edition): Margret Grebowicz, Margret Grebowicz, Repeater Books: Books

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