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Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of…

af Nicholas Howe

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1276168,244 (3.94)2
These compelling profiles of 22 adventurous'yet unlucky'climbers chronicle more than a century of exploration recreation and tragedy in New Hampshire's Presidential Range

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Viser 1-5 af 6 (næste | vis alle)
Great book. This book details what happens to people who are not prepared for the rigors of hiking the Presidential Range in NH. ( )
  BobVTReader | Jul 19, 2012 |
Howe's Not Without Peril is a compendium of stories of tragedy (and near tragedy) in the White Mountains, primarily on Mt. Washington. It should be required reading for anyone who goes climbing in that area. Howe's tales nicely illustrate the importance of good preparation (both in terms of one's route and one's gear), but also the danger these mountains pose even for the well prepared. As someone who has been backpacking in the White Mountains since I was a boy, I found it a good corrective against getting too comfortable in places I have been so many times. For those who have never climbed in this area, and never experienced its particular weather conditions, I recommend this book even more highly.

That said, it can, occasionally be arduous reading for those unfamiliar with the White Mountains. Howe occasionally relates the location of the events by describing a sequence of trails. This is useful for people who have hiked in the area before, but it could be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with it. Each story is accompanied by a map, but these are rudimentary and largely just lay down the doomed hiker's route over a topo of the area. A better map would help situate the story, better explain the decisions made (and the mistakes made) and helpfully illustrate the narrative description of the trails. While the lessons the book communicates are important for climbers new to the area, the book does not always speak to that audience. Nevertheless, the bulk of the stories are easily accessible to all readers (even those who are not interested in hiking the White Mountains).

The majority of the stories are prior to 1950 (only four chapters concern events after that date: two from the 1950s, one from the 1980s, and a chapter discussing four stories from 1994). While this meant that many of the stories were unfamiliar to me, and so moving to read, by far the best chapter in the book is the story of MacDonald Barr and his death on Mt. Madison. One of the reasons this story is so powerful is that Howe relies extensively on interviews with the young men and women working in the AMC Madison Hut that night, and the decisions they had to make. It lends the story an urgency and personal detail that many other stories lack.

The stories are told in a journalistic style, though Howe does occasionally try to bring them to life by speculating about the gaps in our knowledge of the stories he tells. This can occasionally be jarring, but Howe's knowledge of the White Mountains generally makes his speculations compelling. Indeed, some of the best parts of the book are his reports of his own excursions to find the exact spots that these tragedies occurred to better understand how they happened.

One story that gets short shrift in this book is the death of Derek Tinkham. Howe discusses how Tinkham's hiking partner (Jeremy Haas) set an overly aggressive trip plan, and how the way Tinkham was left atop Jefferson raised serious questions about the behavior of Tinkham's partner. Yet, he does not really pursue these issues, since this story is only one in a chapter of four tales from 1994. It is awkward from a writing standpoint (he tells us that the rescuers had serious questions, but these are never explored), and this is an incident which demands closer scrutiny. It raised a number of the same questions that the death of David Sharp on Everest in 2006 did. Interviews with the rescuers who found Tinkham, or the crew on Washington who helped Haas, would have brought this story (and the ensuing controversy) to life in the way that Howe did with Barr's tale.

Despite these criticisms, this is a book which I highly recommend to those with an interest in hiking and the White Mountains in particular. For those planning to hike there, and for those who climb there regularly, its lessons are invaluable. Finally, though I have not focused on it during the review, it is also quite interesting simply for its history. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the construction of Bridle Paths and other trails up the mountains, and about the life and actions of Joe Dodge, one of the most important people in the recent history of the White Mountains. ( )
  jeff.maynes | Jun 20, 2011 |
Not Without Peril is a moving account of many (mostly) deadly misadventures in the Presidential range. Woven around these stories is the history of hiking in the White Mountains and a glimpse into the lives of several people who were crucial in shaping that history, among whom Joe Dodge is a notable example.

In one or two places toward the beginning of the book I thought the author seemed a bit on the judgmental side, but this tone (if indeed it was there) disappeared as the stories continued and started to deal with people he was able to interview in person. On the whole Howe does a good job balancing compassion for those affected by these tragedies with a sense of what went wrong in each case.

Reading this book will make you feel humble before the beauty and power of the White Mountains, and more appreciative of the region's rich history. It will also make you much more likely to pack that extra layer and leave a detailed itinerary next time you venture above treeline. ( )
  Zathras86 | Jun 13, 2009 |
I have a deep, abiding love for both the history of New Hampshire's White Mountains and for written accounts of hiking and mountaineering accidents. This book is a success in the former category, but is only moderately satisfying in the latter. Eighteen incidents are explored in detail, and an appendix lists all deaths occurring on Mount Washington through 1999. While the book's subtitle talks of "150 Years of Misadventure," the focus is very much on the first 100, with the majority of the incidents covered happening in the 1950s or earlier. This is both the book's strength and its downfall: the historical tales are less familiar, but the relative lack of source material leaves more room for authorial meandering, and Nicholas Howe's prose is somewhat chattier and less intense than the subject deserves. In contrast, the more recent accounts were augmented by quotes from people involved and a discussion of how the incident was received by the public and covered by the media. In comparison to Gene Daniell's delightfully scathing accident reports in Appalachia, this book can't help but seem indirect and mild-mannered in comparison. Even so, it's fascinating to see that the main causes of accidents are exactly the same now as they were a hundred years ago: overconfidence and unpreparedness. ( )
  kineocarr | May 14, 2009 |
Excellent book focusing on numerous high profile tragedies and deaths on New Hampshire's Mount Washington. ( )
  nhoule | Aug 11, 2007 |
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These compelling profiles of 22 adventurous'yet unlucky'climbers chronicle more than a century of exploration recreation and tragedy in New Hampshire's Presidential Range

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