of the Mountain Gods
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In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods

by Galen Rowell

San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977; 326 pages

In The Throne Room of the Mountain Gods is a combination of chapters on the history of mountaineering in the Karakoram Range of the western Himalaya interfused with an account of the 1975 American K2 Expedition's attempt on the northwest ridge of that peak. It includes a lot of interesting detail about early exploration and climbing there, as well as of some of the spectacular achievements since the Karakoram was opened again to climbing in 1974.   This part is well worth reading. (…)
The story of the 1975 attempt on the northwest ridge is a mixture of frustrations involving transport, weather, illness, severe route finding and technical difficulties, as well as serious internal dissensions. The latter occupy a major part of the narrative and are presented in overwhelming detail. After a while I found them boring and welcomed the interspacing of the historical accounts and those of the more interesting concurrent expeditions.”
William P. House, “American Alpine Journal”, p. 656-657

“A lot of research has gone into the book and the author makes use of many photographs. But the selection of photographs is strange. Understandably, in view of the minimal advancement of the route, there are few good climbing shots, but the portfolio of large, breathtaking colour photos of the mountains of the Baltoro, which we have every reason to expect from such a talented photographer in such an expensive book, does not appear. There are a few interesting colour reproductions, though not always of the best quality. The black and white photographs, however, are very disappointing. Trango Towers, Chogolisa, the Ogre and many other mountains are reproduced alongside pertinent parts of the text in a ridiculous postage-stamp size, so that they are almost impossible to comprehend. There is a definite need for a topo of K2 and, given that the book is also a general history of mountaineering in the region, topos of all the other peaks that the author writes about. Where the photographs do succeed is in introducing the local people. It is refreshing to see so much attention being paid (in the writing as well) to the lifestyle of the local populace and to the consequences of the region and culture being overrun by foreign expeditions. (…)
However, although there is much to criticize in this book, it must be admitted that Rowell has made a creditable attempt to break away from the usual dull expedition book formula. For, whatever else one might say about it, the book is never dull, and that in itself is a considerable achievement.”
Joe Tasker, „Mountain” 1977, No. 57, September/October, p. 47

“The Author of this coffee table-priced book had a difficult task: to pick a book from the ruins of the American K2 expedition of 1975. He has succeeded remarkably well, to produce a highly readable and unusual book.
Most expedition accounts concentrate on the climbing adventures, and gloss over or neglect to mention the characters involved and the various arguments which inevitably take place. Perhaps, this is not surprising. Arguments and ill-feeling die down with time — why perpetuate them in print? One good reason for doing so is to provide an interesting read, and this is what Rowell has done. On their expedition there was hardly any climbing to write about; instead there was an enormous amount of ill-feeling, and this has been lovingly chronicled. (..)
The historical pieces are useful reading for those who have not done it all before, and there is a welcome rebuilding of Fritz Wiessner's reputation. He too seems to have suffered a great deal. The various chapters discussing other expeditions and imaginary home-life incidents among the Baltis and describing wildlife are all readable, even if their main purpose is to build up the pages. The real meat, though, is the account of the expedition and the souring of relations on it.”
Martrin Boysen, “Crags” No. 11, p. 36

“This is one of the more imposing mountaineering books published during the last few years, in both size and formal as well as content. Galen Rowell being the author, it was only to be expected that the photographs would be good and many of them are superb, ranking with those in other volumes in the large-formal Sierra Club series. This applies mainly to the colour shots, however, as the majority of the black-and-white are little bigger than thumb-nail size in the wide margins of the text. This has been criticized as a fault, but I think gives added interest to the book as it allows many more pictures to be included and means that there is seldom a double page of text without an appropriate illustration.”
Geof Templeman’ “Alpine Journal”, p. 249-250





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