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Garry Hemming: The Beatnik of the Alps

by Mirella Tenderini

The Ernest Press; Glasgow, Scotland; 1995; 195 pages; softcover, black-and-white photos;

“In the early 1960s Gary Hemming rocked the Alps with the first ascents of the American Direct on the Dru, and the South Face of the Fou, then two of Chamonix’s most difficult routes. A daring rescue brightened the limelight. Before and after, he climbed extensively near the top standard for nearly two decades, with such illustrious partners as Royal Robbins, John Harlin, Tom Frost, and Barry Corbett, making very early ascents of testpieces from the Steck-Salathé (when it was the hardest route in Yosemite) to the Walker Spur of the Grandes Jorasses. (…)
For a time, no American alpinist was better known in Europe, yet few Americans know of Gary Hemming. A European writer took on his biography, and five years elapsed between the Italian edition and the time the book came out in English. Now, Americans can discover a lost climbing hero, if hero he was.”
Jeff Achey, “Climbing” 1996, No. 162, p. 160

“(…) who was this guy Hemming? Mirella Tenderini tells us all, in gory detail. Forty of Hemming’s journals (left by Hemming in a trunk labelled In case of an accident, burn everything.) and two trips to US gave her plenty of information. (…)
Tenderini uses a two-part format. Part one is the story of Hemming’s life and death; part two is an account of her research, interviews with Hemming’s friends, and pieces of Hemming’s writing – some of the best reading in the book. (…)
Tenderini dissed Hemming in her title, a term coined by the French press. She says, “he was opposed to this name. ‘I am not a beatnik…[beatniks] are characterized as refusing life.’” Yet in the end, he refused his own life, committing suicide in the Tetons. Tenderini drops this fact nonchalantly in the book’s beginning, as if every reader already knew it.”
Craig Luebben, “Rock & Ice” 1996, No. 72, March/April, p. 131-132

“The portrait of Gary in Mirella’s account is of the Gary I remember, a  man who unfailingly tried to be as good a man as any he knew, a man who desperately needed to conceal his private self but who sometimes thought he wanted to be famous. The preponderance of Mirella’a evidence is overwhelmingly that Gary really wanted love more than fame or even privacy. He had that love. His tragedy was that he was damaged precisely in a way that prevented him from seeing that. “
Pete Sinclair , “American Alpine Journal”  1996, p. 351-354


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