Near Death in the Mountains
Cecil Kuhne
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Buy *Near Death in the Mountains: True Stories of Disaster and Survival (Vintage Departures Original)* by Cecil Kuhne online

Near Death in the Mountains: True Stories of Disaster and Survival (Vintage Departures Original)
Cecil Kuhne
512 pages
July 2008
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Whether you are an armchair adventurer or a seasoned climber, the tales in this book will keep you breathless and leave you in wonder. These accounts are true, the men and women real, and the horrors to be found in the snowy vistas of the highest mountains in the world are awe-inspiring.

Editor Cecil Kuhne has put together a collection of narratives that really show the breathtaking power and majesty of these mountains. From the remarkable story of the WWII prisoners attempting an escape across the icy horrors of Mount Kenya to the amazing account of a rugby team from Peru whose plane crashed in the Andes of Chile, novice and expert alike will be thrilled, horrified and drawn to these stories of bravery and derring-do. For the vicarious adventurer, many of these chronicles will seem foolhardy in the extreme, yet reading about those who are drawn to trying to master these lofty peaks can be inspiring in day-to-day life. For, although those of us who simply sit and read of remarkable adventures may never attempt to climb mountains, many face virtual mountains in their daily lives and can take strength and encouragement from others’ accomplishments.

Each of the accounts is well chosen to give the reader a look at a variety of scenarios on a variety of mountains – and each of the contributors speaks in their own remarkable voice. The choices made, in carelessness or bravery, plunge the reader from the snowy depths of ice caves to the exalting summits of mountainous perfection. Many of the book’s stories are better suited to the experienced veteran climber, who can understand and appreciate the technical terminology. However, mixed in with those comprehensive stories are the broad descriptions that exhilarate the novice or the fireside chair reader. The awesome splendor of mountains has, on some level, an appeal to most of us, and the vivid descriptiveness creates in the reader the ability to hear the furious winds and experience the bone biting chills.

A remarkable facet of the choices that Kuhne has made in selection is that the stories cover a wide range of human emotion and decisions. From accounts of horrifying carelessness to almost casual gung-ho overconfidence, the reader senses that despite differences in age, race or personal experience, those who climb mountains listen to a different voice. These climbers are motivated and stimulated by a diverse set of values, of desires and of goals. It takes extraordinary endurance, physical and emotional strength and deep courage to attempt the pursuit of such dreams. Whether we view these climbers as foolhardy or brave, we can appreciate the glorious call of the unknown that those cold and unforgiving mountains inspire.

The time periods covered by these selections is from the 1940s and ‘50s to the 21st century, so we come away from the reading with a definite sense of the timelessness and almost spiritual pull of mountain climbing. The 12 stories that make up the book are, as the title states, of disaster and survival. Whether we understand or appreciate the stimulus that drives these people to attempt what seems impossible, we can read these stories and honor the human experience that brings them to their choices.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Laura Strathman Hulka, 2008

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