Beginning with the first documentation of climbing a mountain in America (1642 – Darby Field) and ending with mentions of Lynn Hill and Tommy Caldwell in 2015, this book provides an engrossing presentation of American mountaineering. The history begins with and follows the growth and development of the American mountaineering interest. While mountains were noted and observed during the first 200 years of the expansion across the continent there was little interest in exploration or “conquering” the summits. They were usually regarded as impediments to the migration of the people. Others during this time were associated with surveying and exploring, occasionally climbed to the peaks. The more recreational and inspirational motivations for climbing only truly began to appear in the early 1800s.
This book presents not only the exploration of the mountains and the first ascents but also the development of groups and organizations interested in and supporting mountaineering. While initial efforts of climbing mostly consisted of walks and scrabbling, the introduction of techniques from Europe and the development of complex techniques in America significantly advanced and enhanced the capabilities of climbers. Detail of this evolution is easy to follow and to enjoy as it is done without cumbersome information and provides sufficient particulars of the individual to personalize them.
The coverage of mountaineering extends from North, Central and South America. It includes information from Europe and Asia that impacted on the development or experiences of these climbers. This is the second book on mountaineering by this author, the other being a history of the Himalayas. This presentation was easy to read and enjoyable for this reviewer, who has had some limited experience with climbing in the snow. Continental Divide is a very good summary of American mountaineering.
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