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Book Review

Book Review – Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

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Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Washington:  Section Hiking from the Columbia River to Manning Park
By Tami Asars
286 pp. Available through Mountaineers Books for $24.95

hiking the pacific crest trail

Tami Asars is quickly becoming one of the Northwest’s most cherished guidebook writers.  Her latest work will serve as the definitive source for anyone considering hiking Washington’s section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  What makes Tami’s work so great is that she takes her years of experience as a former REI guide and brings that detailed knowledge and expertise to her guidebooks.  She knows what you need to know and what questions you will have before you ever think to ask.  Want to know the reliable water sources between Hope Lake and Stevens Pass?  Tami will show you.  Want to know where to find the best pastries on earth after a long day on the trail?  Tami will give you directions (here is a hint… p. 185).

Tami provides exceptional detail and is a thorough researcher.  Her Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail guidebook breaks down Washington’s portion of the PCT into sections and legs that Tami took years to document.  Each leg is illustrated with a detailed relief map that will tell you much of what you need to know at a quick glance; mileage, water source, trail numbers, camp sites, and elevation gain/loss are all at your fingertips.  Sections itineraries are also suggested to help you plan your time on the trail.

The book is full of guide tricks and knowledge only gained when you lead people around in the wilderness for a living.  She quickly and easily demystifies the web of rules, permits, and land management agencies you encounter on the trail.  She also provides advice and helpful hints about camping spots during busy seasons along the trial.  Besides this very specific advice, Tami also gently reminds you of trail etiquette and hygiene considerations.

While Tami’s book it packed full of must-have PCT knowledge and entertaining writing, the information is not the only reason to purchase the book.  Tami is also an accomplished professional photographer and her book is beautifully illustrated by her own photos.  Glimpse into the wild through Tami’s lens and see the sights you can hope to see when you take your own journey on Washington’s PCT.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Tami Asars is a Washington based writer and photographer. Her latest guidebook – Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is available through Mountaineers Books.

Future PCT publications by Mountaineers Books

hiking the pacific crest trail

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon by Eli Boschetto (January 2017)

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California by Phillip Kramer (Fall 2017)

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California by Shawnte Salabert (Fall 2017)

Book Review – Awesome Woman’s Outdoor Guide

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woman’s outdoor guideA WOMAN’S GUIDE TO THE WILD
Your Complete Outdoor Handbook
By Ruby McConnel and Illustrated by Teresa Grasseschi
287 pp. Available through Sasquatch Books or Amazon for $18.95

As the outdoors increasingly becomes a mystery to our screen bound society, Ruby McConnel writes a practical guide to all the secrets of the wild that beginners need to know.  This woman’s outdoor guide is humorous, conversational, and packed with vital outdoor skills and tips.  Reading it is like having a lively chat with your best friend at your favorite coffee shop.  Everything from how to start a fire, to how to handle hygiene on the trail, Ruby covers it all with humor and humility.

For many, the lack of basic outdoor knowledge is a barrier to enjoying extended forays into the wild.  Often, budding outdoors enthusiast feel self-conscious about asking questions. Questions like, “what do I take and how do I pack my backpack,” can seem basic, causing the budding outdoors enthusiast to feel self-conscious about asking questions.  In her woman’s outdoor guide, Ruby provides the answers and context to help the novice outdoors woman feel confident going gear shopping and hitting the trail.

Besides her own expert knowledge, Ruby also includes sage advice from other women with professional outdoor knowledge.  Learn weather tips from an experienced Forest Service biologist.  Find out helpful hints about packing for extended trips from an Appalachian Trail trekking expert.  These sections help make the book feel approachable and collaborative.  You are not getting a book by an authoritative expert telling you how you have to do it; this book is a conversation among friends talking about different ways to enjoy the outdoors.

In addition to wonderful advice, the book is beautifully illustrated by Teresa Grasseschi.  Teresa’s technical drawings help Ruby tell the story of the outdoors and the stylized accents on each page set the outdoor atmosphere.  You can almost smell the pine and hear the crackle of the campfire through Teresa’s amazing drawings.

Simply put, this is the perfect woman’s outdoor guide with beautiful illustrations.  Highly recommend for beginning and novice outdoors women or as a gift for a woman interested in exploring the wild.  Read more from Ruby at

Summer Book Review – Almost There

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Almost_There_Cover_for_Kindle - Copy

Seattle Backpackers Magazine Summer Book Review

Stories and Musings along the Pacific Crest Trail
By G. William Jolley
231 pp. Amazon. $14.95.


summer bookWriting a book is difficult.  Writing a good book is herculean. In Almost There, G. William Jolley has written a good book.  The book is a memoir of a complicated life woven into the 500 miles trekked by the 70-year-old author on Washington State’s leg of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  If you have ever wondered what it would be like to take a long backpacking trip with your grandfather, this book will let you know.  Jolley is honest and unvarnished in his account of his life, his experiences on the trail, and his descriptions of a person still under construction.  At times, the narrative reflection is insightful and even wise.  At other times, the reader must become the careful observer and understand Jolley’s behavior in terms of the layered contradictions that contain a life.  The author berates a group of Boy Scouts he encounters for their use of cellphones, yet Jolley is thankful when his wife sends him one in a resupply package and then calls her in tears from the trail.

Reading this book we get to live the author’s life vicariously and in so doing get a better understanding of our own life and the lives of our elders.  We get to see the ghosts that visit Jolley in his quiet moments alone, their shadows cast by imperfect memories on the wall of the tent.  Jolley reflects over the ashes of a deceased comrade, “In the end, the weight of my friend is less than two pounds.”  The book is well written in short bite-size pieces, easy to digest, and perfect if you are looking for a good summer book.


Summer book reviews from Seattle Backpackers Magazine, find your next great trail read.

All the Wild That Remains Book Review

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David GessnerAll the Wild That Remains’s book All the Wild That Remains (released in April 2015) is subtitled “Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West.” And, if you’re familiar with either of these literary icons, that’s all the sales pitch you’ll need. Part biography, part travelogue, Gessner’s book is an eye-opening look at the current state of the American West, through the lens of two men who loved it and wrote about it.

A quick introduction to those unfamiliar with Stegner or Abbey:

Wallace Stegner is the greatest writer you’ve never heard of. His novels are some of the most captivating and brilliantly-worded I have ever read. A Pulitzer Prize winner, he’s sometimes called the “Dean of Western Writers.” And, as founder of Stanford’s Creative Writing Program, he taught an impressive list of luminaries, including Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry and Ed Abbey, himself. Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest described studying under Stegner “like playing football under Vince Lombardi.”

Edward Abbey, a one-time ranger at what became Utah’s Arches National Park, was a fiercer (if not more sardonic and profane) defender of the wild on page. His book, The Monkey Wrench Gang, depicts four environmental vigilantes dismantling bulldozers and blowing up bridges in Utah and Arizona and served as inspiration to radicalized groups like Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front. Less extreme, but every bit as biting, Abbey’s non-fiction Desert Solitaire is often called the “Walden of the West.”

In many ways, the two men were opposites. As Gessner points out, “We read Wallace Stegner for his virtues, but we read Edward Abbey for his flaws. Stegner the sheriff. Abbey the outlaw.” But in other ways – namely, their love of the West – they were kindred souls.

But you don’t have to be familiar with either author to appreciate All the Wild That Remains. Gessner rolls out his introductions to both authors throughout the book as he makes his own journey through the American West. He views the destruction of record-setting forest fires in Colorado and fracking in eastern Utah. He takes a rafting trip down the San Juan River to help eradicate an invasive species and sleeps in the trailer of the man on which Abbey based his infamous George Hayduke character.

But it’s Gessner’s insightful passages like this that tie today’s West and these two authors together:

“I thought of a friend of mine who had just moved west, a former stockbroker who knew a thing or two about booms. When I told him what I was writing about, he was mystified.

‘How can you worry about the West? There is so much land. And so few people. How can they possibly hurt it?’

He was apparently as-yet unschooled in western aridity, and therefore western vulnerability. He didn’t understand: scar this dry landscape and the scars remain.”

Bottom Line:

All the Wild That Remains is not a strict biography of Stegner and Abbey. But it is a celebration of each author. It’s not a tree-hugging book. But it contains several salient warnings about land use. It’s not a travelogue. But it will make you want to get to red rock country sooner rather than later. It is an excellent book to read in the wild, because it can heighten our appreciation for the wilderness and put our relationship to the land in a larger context. It’s also a great book to read when we’re back home in our air-conditioned entertainment centers, because it will coax us back out into the wild.

Tech Specs:

All the Wild That Remains by David Gessner

Published by W.W. Norton & Company, April 2015

354 pages

MSRP: $26.95 (but found less expensive online)

Gessner’s Book Trailer:

Strangers Like Angels – Book Review

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On a dirt road less travelled in Afghanistan - 1977
Crossing the Niger River in Mali, 1977

Strangers Like Angels is an enchanting tale about Alec and Jan Forman, a young couple from Britain who embark on a global adventure. Set in the mid-1970s, their saga is recounted from the photos, journal entries and letters to and from family back home during their multi-year trip – all compiled into a wonderful and beautiful memoir. In the pages of this delightful autobiography, they share their epic venture through Antartica, to the deserts of Africa, in the far off lands of central Asia and everywhere in between.

The prose is decidedly British and, while some of the language may be lost on American readers, their experiences are nonetheless artfully told and engaging. Their encounters with fauna and wildlife while traveling is beautifully described, as is their often fortuitous meetings with locals and other like-minded adventurers during their travels throughout the world – which are steeped in history, culture and heritage. Not only are the numerous photos so profoundly beautiful that they could be easily found within the pages of a National Geographic magazine, but also the artwork and the maps add an ambiance to the book that truly captures the spirit of their journey.

Taking a break enroute at Jalori Mountain Pass (10,280feet) INDIA, 1977
Taking a break enroute at Jalori Mountain Pass (10,280feet) INDIA, 1977

Not only did I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful and riveting page turner – it inspired me. They left their family, stepped out of what some would call a normal comfort zone and traveled to distant and strange new lands. It was their dream, and the fact that they never backed down even when they thought they couldn’t make it is a testament to their adventurous spirit. While immersed in the pages of their story, I felt like I was right there with them in the backseat of their 1967 Land Rover, breathing the dust of the Sahara and getting tossed around by the rocky roads in Afghanistan.

To pick up your own copy of Strangers Like Angels, please visit

On a dirt road less travelled in Afghanistan - 1977
On a dirt road less travelled in Afghanistan – 1977

Hikes with Tykes Games and Activities Book Review

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If your family is anything like mine, your kids drop their Nintendo DS, shut off the TV, grab you by the wrist and drag you out onto the trails at their first opportunity, right?  Of course not.  One of the struggles of today’s communication and technology society is that it’s harder and harder to successfully unplug and get out into nature. Even parents who feel it’s really important to connect with nature, and make every effort to push families out the door, find it challenging to entertain kids once they are on the trails. There are no screens, no beeping noises and no txtmsgs. So what’s a dedicated, outdoor-loving parent to do to thwart the whining and boredom, or even succeed at motivating our children off of the couch?

Thankfully there are solutions to this dilemma and one of them is Rob Bignell’s latest book. Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities. This great little guide contains enough ideas to engage even the most stoic, couch-loving tween. Rob spends the first third of the book introducing basic thought for hiking with kids, including safety, first aid, navigation, supplies, food and even a bit about the family dog. For any of us who spend ample time outdoors, this section may seem a bit pedantic, but it did a good job reminding me  of the reasons we take our families hiking. Bonding, childhood memories (besides level 22 of their favorite video game) and attitude adjustment. I was also reminded how rule enforcement shifts when we go out into the wilderness. Encouraging your indoor child from trepidation about the outdoors to curiosity on the trail is a very worthwhile experience, but one that often is not a natural shift, especially for parents who are used to corralling their kids in the city.

Bignell’s Games and Activities begins by attacking the hardest parts of hiking with kids. Chapter one is called “Getting Reluctant Kids Excited About the Hike.” It is a good opener! The suggestions range from planning to internet research, to food prep, to word choice: call it “an adventure” or “exploring” rather than “a hike,” and that may take you a long way!

The games section is divided into three parts: Prehike games, hiking games and post-hike games. And each set of games covers a range of ages and interests, from toddler-engaging “I spy,” to teen-worthy photography, and geocaching.

All in all, Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities is a great resource for parents who need a little (or a lot) of help encouraging their kids on the trail. You might even be surprised by a tug on the wrist one day.



I Hike-Mostly True Stories from 10,000 Miles of Hiking Book Review

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“I never set out to hike 10,000 miles.”

I Hike-Mostly True Stories from 10,000 Miles of Hiking

Thus begins Lawton Grinter’s delightful (and insightful) book about “hiking” or walking great distances, especially through rural areas, for pleasure and recreation. This simple description of the activity doesn’t even begin to describe the passion with which long-distance hikers embrace this lifestyle; to learn more about that, you need to read this book.

As I read, I laughed. I cried. I wanted to hike. This is one of the most delightful books I’ve ever read (and let me tell you, I’ve read quite a few books.) Grinter’s writing is engaging and honest; uncluttered by artifice of any kind. Be warned that the funny parts may render you unable to move because you’re laughing so hard, as I found out when I tried to read Chapter 2, “Ice Cream Headache,” aloud to my husband. I’ll even go so far as to say that chapter is the funniest thing I’ve ever read.

Grinter’s stories cover his treks along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), the Colorado Trail (CT), the John Muir Trail (JMT), and the venerable AT, the Appalachian Trail. He describes the book as “a ‘greatest hits’ version of things that happened to me on all these trails. Some of those ‘hits’ were truly great. Some were tragic.”

Beyond the humor and the poignancy, “I Hike” is an excellent rule book about what to do–and not do–out there on the trail. If you’re a serious hiker, you’ll read it and nod your head for all 195 pages. If you’ve got friends who wonder why you hike, buy this book for them. If you’ve got friends who are thinking about embracing this challenging lifestyle, buy the book and highlight the important passages; on second thought, don’t bother highlighting because pretty much the entire book is important.

Grinter introduces us to a wonderful cast of characters, every bit as unique as you will find in The Decameron or The Canterbury Tales, complete with their hiking nicknames. Grinter’s trail name is “Disco” and his (eventual) wife is known as P.O.D. or the Princess of Darkness (I won’t spoil it by telling you how she earned this name). We meet trail angels (the people who help hikers along the way), and the store keepers of those small but very essential outposts on the trails. We learn about miraculous ice chests and killer mosquitoes and, of course, bears. Most of all, we meet Nature in her full range of glory and fury.

I have only one tiny nit to pick, and that involves the book’s production. “I Hike” suffers a bit from the same problem as many other small press publications, the lack of a traditional copy edit. There are typos and some grammar glitches but nothing that will keep you from thoroughly enjoying this amazing book. As I learned from reading “I Hike”, it’s like anything you encounter on the trail: you push through it and keep going.

“I Hike” gives us glimpses into a rich world that is almost mystical in its lore and traditions. I sincerely hope that Lawton Grinter will keep writing; he has a lot to say and he says it well.


I Hike: Mostly True Stories from 10,000 Miles of Hiking

Lawton Grinter

Grand Mesa Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9852415-0-6

Lookouts: Firewatchers of the Cascades and the Olympics Book Review

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With the high heat across the country and wildfires fanning the headlines Lookouts, Firewatchers of the Cascades and Olympics seemed like an appropriate summer read. Authors Ira Spring and Byron Fish have updated their fascinating book, first released in 1981, that details the history of the remote and far-flung fire towers that once dotted Washington State. When the authors first undertook their task they believed there were roughly two hundred towers. At the end of their exhaustive research they’d uncovered evidence of at least five hundred towers.

Like much public policy, the developments that led to the creation of forest lookouts came in the wake of a catastrophic event. On October 8,1871 the Great Peshtigo fire broke out in Wisconsin. Before it was over the fire laid waste to 1,300,000 acres in Wisconsin and Michigan, killing anywhere from 1,300 to 2,400 people. Ironically, the fire occurred at the same moment, but was unrelated to, the Great Chicago Fire, and as a result the Great Peshtigo fire has been all but forgotten to history. But the Peshtigo fire made it clear to the US Congress and to the President, Benjamin Harris, that that forests, long thought to be an inexhaustible American resource, were in need of protection and in 1891 Congess gave the president authority to withdraw public lands and create forest reserves. In 1893, then President, Grover Cleveland set aside some twenty-one million acres including the Pacific Forest Reserve covering much of Washington State.

Having created these reserves they needed to protect them and thus fire lookouts were built. Originally just tents or “rag houses” perched on high points, they soon evolved into full structures designed to endure the harsh elements of their locations. By 1929 ranger districts were placing watchtowers in earnest. The Forest Service was already doing its best to employ young men when the New Deal administration inquired if the Forest Service could use extra 25,000 men. That number blossomed into 250,000 and the Civilian Conservation Corps was formed. In nine years the CCC built 60,000 miles of trail and 600 lookouts.


Lookouts covers the history of individual lookouts in Washington State in meticulous detail. Included in the book are photographs of the towers—whose shape, size and situation varied greatly—and colorful stories about the rangers who manned the lookouts, their trials and tribulations. One of the more famous lookouts was Jack Kerouac who spent the summer of 1956 on the not inappropriately named Desolation Peak. His book Desolation Angels describes that summer.

Lookouts is not a trail book, it’s a historical interest book that reveals places you will want to go, but you will need an auxiliary guidebook and maps to get there. I’ve never written a guidebook but I imagine that one of the difficult choices authors face is between wanting to be thorough and historically accurate but also concise and lively. Unfortunately many of the towers covered in this book were torn down after technology made them obsolete. As a result many of the sites covered in this book are no longer standing nor were they historically significant in any real way except that they were there at one point.

I enjoyed this book as a historical record but, like all history, the chance to make it come alive by actually getting to see it myself is what I really crave. To that end, here’s a cheat sheet on the watch towers still standing that I’d most like to visit. There is a similar list at the end of this book. I rather imagine this is a book I’d keep on hand to see if I’m near an old tower when I’m hiking. Or it’s a book I’d use as a reference to plan hikes to spectacular view sights. In either event, I’d like to know up front which towers still exist and can be visited so I’m breaking the list out below. Travel at your own risk, as you might imagine, some of these lookouts are quite precariously positioned.


Lookouts still standing (some you can even rent):

Aeneas Lookout

Alpine Lookout

Big Butte Lookout

Buck Mountain Lookout

Burley Mountain Lookout

Cleman Mountain Lookout

Columbia Mountain Lookout

Copper Mountain Lookout

Desolation Peak Lookout

Evergreen Mountain Lookout

Fire Lookout Museum Lookout

First Butte Lookout

Flagstaff Lookout

Flattop Mountain Lookout

Fosback Lookout

Funk Mountain Lookout

Goat Peak Lookout

Gobblers Knob Lookout

Graves Mountain Lookout

Green Mountain Lookout

Hidden Lake Peak Lookout

High Rock Lookout

Indian Mountain Lookout

Kelly Butte Lookout

Kloshe Nanitch Lookout

Knowlton Knob Lookout

Kresek Fire Tower

Leecher Mountain Lookout

Lookout Mountain Lookout (both of them)

Miners Ridge Lookout

Mount Adams Lookout

Mount Bonaparte Lookout

Mount Constitution Lookout

Mount Fremont Lookout

Mount Pilchuck Lookout

Mount Spokane Vista House Lookout

North Twentymile Peak Lookout

Oregon Butte Lookout

Park Butte Lookout

Puyallup Ridge Lookout

Red Mountain Lookout

Red Top Lookout

Salmo Mountain Lookout

Shriner Peak Lookout

Slate Peak Lookout

Sourdough Mountain Lookout

South Baldy Lookout

Stranger Mountain Lookout

Sugarloaf Mountain Lookout

Suntop Lookout

Thorp Mountain Lookout

Three Fingers Lookout

Timber Mountain Lookout

Tunk Mountain Lookout

Tyee Mountain Lookout

Watch Mountain Lookout

Winchester Mountain Lookout



Title: Lookouts: Firewatchers of the Cascades and the Olympics

Author: Ira Spring and Byron Fish

Publisher: Mountaineer Books

Pages: 218

Published: 1996 (second edition)

The Naked Mountain by Reinhold Messner – Book Review

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Over the last six months I have been devouring books about mountain climbing. Some of the titles I have read include: Stone Palaces by Geoffrey Childs, Annapurna South Face by Chris Bonington, Beyond the Mountain by Steve House, The Ascent: A Novel by Jeff Long, and The StoneMasters: California Rock Climbers in the Seventies by John Long & Dean Fidelman. While I thoroughly enjoyed all of these books, when I read The Naked Mountain by Reinhold Messner I was enthralled from beginning to end. For me, this was not just your typical mountaineering book – it was special, so I attempted to articulate why in the review. Even though I had won the book in a Twitter contest (and I never win anything!) I immediately knew I should share it with the readers of Seattle Backpackers Magazine since it affected me so much.

Nanga Parbat, which means “Naked Mountain,” is the ninth highest mountain in the world. Clocking in at 26,660 ft, it is located in the northern area of Pakistan close to the border of Afghanistan, China, and the disputed border of India. From the first ascent by AF Mummery in 1895, Nanga Parbat has seen numerous attempts, failures, and deaths on all of its faces. Fritz Bechtold, an expedition member within the author’s party, had this to say about the mountain:

The mighty South Face of Nanga Parbat is the highest mountain face on the Earth. Small wonder that the Hindu farmer, looking up from his hard work in the fields at that fearsome wall of ice, believes that the summit above the clouds is the place where all the evil gods gather to send down sickness upon his family, pestilence upon his herds and bad weather upon his harvest.

The mountain is indeed enormous and photos of it hardly seem real. It is surrounded by green meadows and forests, and as the mountain rises from the serenity of the valley and deserts its face is covered in gravity-defying seracs and cornices, huge cliffs tumbling for thousands of feet, and avalanches constantly scouring its many faces.

The Naked Mountain pulls the reader into a world of bitter cold, avalanches, stunning scenery, and agonizing retreats as the author attempts to be the first person to climb this mountain via the tallest face in the world: the Rupal Face. The author, Reinhold Messner, and his climbing partner, Gunther (who is also his brother), not only fight the elements but a puzzling multifaceted clash of will between the expedition leader, Herrligkoffer, and their desire to be the first to successfully ascend the south face of Nanga Parbat. Reinhold’s prose is truly captivating and I often felt like I was there witnessing the events first hand. My palms were sweating as I read about the ascent of Merkl Couloir and the consequent hair-raising descent of the Diamir face where tragedy strikes.

The book is rich with history, first hand accounts, portions of journals, old photographs, sketches, and maps. It contained three main elements; the harrowing account of the various ascents of the mountain (including the first ascent of the Rupal Face by the Messner brothers), the relationship between Reinhold and his brother, and the mystery that still shrouds the tragedy that befell their expedition. This is further clouded by the idiosyncratic characters of the various expedition members, especially Herrligkoffer, who had a bone to pick with the mountain since it claimed his half brother’s life during an expedition many decades before.

Without giving away too much, Reinhold wrote The Naked Mountain in 2002 to share how the ill-fated 1970 expedition unfolded from his perspective and to defend himself from the diatribe of criticisms that ensued following the events surrounding the final descent of Nanga Parbat. The first three-quarters of the book lay the scene for the events, which to this day are still shrouded in uncertainty and differing accounts. The account that the expedition leader Herrligkoffer gave is wildly different than Messner’s recently delivered (at least in the form of a book) account. After reading The Naked Mountain I wanted to believe Reinhold’s account of how the expedition unfolded, from even before it began until the very bitter end. His writing style is mesmerizing and the way he articulates himself lent him the air of a competent, wise, well-versed mountaineer: the very opposite of how he has been portrayed by the rest of the climbing party, who were not even there when the expedition began to unravel.

One thing that comes to the forefront of the book is how close the brothers were – they were the perfect climbing partners and Reinhold illustrated this with the utmost care throughout the book.

As brothers we were more, far more than just a climbing partnership. We had our own lifestyle, our own secrets: routes that we planned to climb, dreams that we shared, and a mutual zest for life.

They were the perfect duo and partnership to attempt the first ascent of the Rupal Face. You will have to read the book (and don’t cheat by Googling it, either) to find out what happens. On that note, neither do I possess the skill, gift, or fortitude (although I would love to try some day) to ascend Nanga Parbat by even the easiest route, so my opinions are of the humblest variety. As a budding mountaineer and brother, I know where I stand in this engaging, non-fiction mountaineering mystery/thriller. No matter what side you take after reading The Naked Mountain I am sure you will agree that it is a great read and quite the page turner.


Editorial on the Photos in this article:

While the photos (see below) do not appear in the book by Messner, in compiling the information needed for this review, Isaac was compelled to track down these special images. Isaac relayed this to us during the final stages of writing this review. Please take a moment to gaze upon these photos in combination with the book review of The Naked Mountain. Seattle Backpackers Magazine is excited to have permission to publish these photos and hope that you will enjoy them as much as he enjoyed tracking them down.

Isaac writes:

I did not want to settle for just a photo of the cover, but didn’t seem to be able to find any others from the book online. So I contacted Reinhold himself through Facebook. However, he is a busy man and when I did not hear anything back I contacted the publisher, but they did not have rights to the photos within the book. It was then that I decided to contact the American Alpine Club’s Henry S. Hall Jr. Library to see if they could help me (one of the perks since I am a member). On a slow day at work I called the AAC Library and spoke to Alex Depta, who was more than happy to help me find some photos of Nanga Parbat that I could use for The Naked Mountain book review. He emailed me several spectacular photos of Nanga Parbat taken during the 1969 and 1971 Czechoslovak expeditions organized by the Slovaks from the High Tatras. Messner’s account of Nanga Parbat was for the 1970 climbing season – that same time frame as the photos I had acquired! Alex had scanned the backs of the photos too because there was a stamp that presumably indicated the rights holder of the photos. Unfortunately, he did not have the contact information for the rights holder, so all I had was a name.

Now I was on a mission. I needed to connect the dots after coming this far. After an extensive internet search, I discovered a Polish alpinism forum that mentioned the photographer and that he had worked or was working for a guide company in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia. I contacted that guide company called Spolok horských vodcov Vysoké Tatry and that same day they replied to my inquiry with an email address to Ivan Urbanovič Jr., son of the photographer, Ivan Urbanovič. I emailed Ivan Urbanovič Jr. and the following week I had permission to use the photos that you see below!

These photos do not appear in Messner’s book, but are from the same era as the story. Obtaining photos for this article was an amazing adventure and I would like to take the time to thank the individuals who helped with this effort.

Alex Depta who sifted through the archives at the Henry S. Hall, Jr. American Alpine Club Library and was able to locate several spectacular photos of Nanga Parbat taken during expeditions in 1969 and 1971. The photographer, Ivan Urbanovich –  and his son Ivan Jr., who generously gave me permission to use the photos for this article. The ’69 & ’71 expeditions were Czechoslovak expeditions organized by the Slovaks from the High Tatras. His images truly capture the awesomeness of this mountain. Last but not least I would like to thank Emily White with The Mountaineers Books for helping me with my many questions while I was in the process of writing the review.




Click image to see larger


The Art of Rough Travel – Book Review

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The Art of Rough Travel

From the Peculiar to the Practical

Advice from a 19th-Century Explorer

By Sir Francis Galton

Edited by Kitty Harmon

One of my biggest takeaways from The Art of Rough Travel, From the Peculiar to the Practical, Advice from a 19th Century Explorer, is that I’m lucky to be alive and adventuring in the age of Gortex, nylon, propane, and poly pro. That said, the newly abridged, newly titled The Art of Rough Travel (formerly, The Art of Travel: Shifts and Contrivances in Wild Countries, originally published by Sir Francis Galton in 1855) is an in-depth look at the travel modes and mores of old. This edition promises to cut more or less straight to the premise of the original book and give its readers a survival guide, err, make that a thrive guide, for traveling in new and unfamiliar countries. From camping to custom this guide provides both practical and at times spiritual advice to the would-be traveler of the 1800’s.

One look at the Contents page of this book reveals the comprehensive nature of this guide: Outfit, Clothing, Beasts of Burden, Climbing and Mountaineering, Swimming, Rafts and Boats, Fire, Bedding, Bivouac, Tents, Bush Remedies, Measurements, Wayfinding, Signals, Fords and Bridges, Water for Drinking, Food, Game, Fishing, Caches, Miscellany.

The modern age, particularly the advent of plastics, renders whole sections of this book irrelevant, but the voice—witty, engaging, wry—makes the sections on things like clothing fun to read in a I’m-so-glad-I-live-now kind of way. Of washing clothes, Galton explores the origins of soap substitutes (lye of ashes and gall of animals) and teases us with lines like, “the sailor’s recipe for washing clothes is well known, but it is too dirty to describe.” Really? There I could have used a sidebar on what that’s all about. But still it’s with equal parts delight and horror that I read Galton’s instructions that “the hotter the ground on which you have to walk the thicker your socks should be. These should be of woolen…(p.23).” I love my Smart Wools as much as the next gal, but the vision of traversing, oh say, the Sahara, in July bound up in wool-padded feet would make me rethink travel abroad. Also, cleanliness, we suspect, was held to different standards in 1855.

Surprising, to this reader anyway, was that women, native women anyway, were thought to be, if not an advantage; at least they were not conceived of as a hindrance to any outing party. In fact, Sir Francis Galton contests that in addition to physically being more ready for the journey than any horse (!), that women are “invaluable in picking up and retailing information and hearsay gossip which will give clues to much of importance, that, unassisted, you might miss (p.15).”

I don’t do any horse travel, but I’d be interested to know if the advice on Beasts of Burden still holds up today. The theory of loads and distance reaches the conclusion that “an animal gets through most work in the day if he carries four-ninths of the greatest load he could just stagger under; in which case he will be able to travel a third of the distance he could walk if he carried no load at all. (p.29)” As to which animal to travel with? Well, that depends on your circumstances as each animal has his merits and demerits. The Ass, “Not withstanding his inveterate obstinacy, the ass is an excellent and sober little beast, far too much despised by us. He is not only the most enduring, but also one of the quickest walkers amount cattle (p.32).”

The Art of Rough Travel, From the Peculiar to the Practical, Advice from a 19th Century Explorer, is not where I’d turn when preparing for an actual expedition, but it is a book I’d keep on hand for its amusing and interesting facts about travel in rougher times. Rough Travel is a lively read and good fun for anyone who ever fancied him or herself an old-time adventurer.


Title: The Art of Rough Travel, From the Peculiar to the Practical, Advice from a 19th Century Explorer

Author: Sir Francis Galton, edited by Kitty Harmon

Publisher: Mountaineers Books

Pages: 176

Published: 2006 (first edition)

The Art of Rough Travel Cover
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