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Beyond the Vertical

by Layton Kor

Editor: Bob Godfrey. Alpine House, Boulder, 1983; 215 pages


“When I first heard of the book, I had a dreadful premonition, because the praise of living heroes is always a risky venture when the living hero himself is helping orchestrate it. Biography risks turning into transparent deification. The life and times of Kor were solid gold, but even gold can be adulterated. My premonitions grew worse when rumor had it that Beyond the Vertical was essentially a boys' club affair, liberally peanut-butter-and-jellied with ex-climbing partners' vignettes and anecdotes; I braced myself.
I needn't have worried. Beyond the Vertical really flies. Here and there it labors, is two dimensional, slow and impersonal. Furthermore, there are more typos than any $35.00 book should contain. But the overall product is magical and inspiring, the way great climbing literature is supposed to be. (…)
For one thing, this is a picture book of superb quality (by now a trademark of Godfrey's cottage industry, Alpine House). The selection and layout of photos is striking. Landscapes, generously spread across the large 9-by 12-inch color pages, can match the very best of the Sierra Club. They alone justify the price of the book. (…)
It is the text, however, that makes this more than just another coffee-table book. True, there's not much of it; more pages are devoted to photos than prose. For additional text to flesh out Kor's eloquent, if spare, remembrances, Godfrey solicited stories from both the famous and the not so famous who once climbed with the six-foot five-inch dynamo. These minisketches are interlarded throughout the book, sewn onto Kor's narrative. (…)
Ultimately the book succeeds because of its subject. Kor's sincerity shines on every page. He never boasts, never pretends, nor do his mini-biographers for him. Over and over again, his partners describe him as outlandish, adrenalin-soaked, driven, and largely devoid of poetic soul searching.
There was no hidden depth to Kor's love for climbing, no secret reason. The book's greatest strength is that no false poetry or philosophy is retroactively attached to a great climbing career. Kor is plain and simple about his plain and simple passion—ascent.”
Jeff Long, “American Alpine Journal” 1985, p. 345-347

“The editor, Bob Godfrey, has mixed Kor's own narrative with accounts written by various of Kor's climbing partners. This is a technique that worked well for Godfrey in the book Climb! A History of Rockclimbing in Colorado, but it works even better here. People such as Robbins, Goss, Pratt, and Beckey (among others) have written with warmth, humour, and candor of their experiences with Kor. Such generous prose is refreshing in our current age of climbing literature where in writers all too often dwell on every-ones weaknesses save their own. The passage of time between the deeds and the telling lends the text a timeless quality that virtually assures the volume a place alongside other mountaineering classics. But it is not by any means heavy reading. (…)
The words are well balanced by superbly reproduced photos in colour which were selected from Kor's collection of thousands of slides. They provide a wonderful look at Kor's peripatetic career.
From the Totem Pole to the Logan Mountains, Yosemite to the Dolomites; from the Diamond in winter to the Eiger Direct: it's a kaliedoscopic vision unique to the man Chuck Pratt calls '...the best rock climber of his generation.'”
Jeff Lowe, “Mountain” 1983, September/October, No. 93, p. 49

“Beyond the metaphorical vertical is a place where the search for oneself, the achievement of excellence, the desire for risk, and the struggle for survival become indistinguishably interwoven. Through topologically fertile landscapes, Layton Kor visited this place with an intensity that was rare.
Known for his amazing energy and enthusiasm, Kor became a standard-setter during the so-called "golden age" of climbing in North America. A decade of highly successful activity, followed by one and a half, during which the legends grew, and we have a hero who is not only timely, but alive and willing to share himself with us. No doubt he has had second thoughts about exposing his private life to further analysis and praise; he never seemed interested in being a celebrity. Be that as it may, Beyond the Vertical, a prodigious undertaking, will earn Kor and editor Godfrey pre-eminence in the enduring literature of ascent.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, this autobiography of the archetypal climber was the best seller in Boulder during December, 1983. Given that Kor is a local and that Boulder is home to thousands of climbers, this book should also have strong personal appeal among the laity. Though not cheap at $35, it makes a quality gift for someone special, and for what we get, it's a bargain. Even the sophisticated will be appalled by the dust-jacket photo. Remove and save it; like other classics about mountaineering, Beyond the Vertical will increase in value. Inside the rich red cover glow 172 color plates, many of which are stunning full- or two-page spreads, documenting outrageous journeys. The photos, with a few exceptions justified by historical significance, are well-executed and finely reproduced. It is hard to believe that these were made from transparencies 15 to 25 yrs. old, until one notices the outdated "fashions" and equipment. The slick, modern design juxtaposes Kor's engaging commentary with the graciously penned contributions of his wild and crazy peers, nineteen of the best climbers of the day. Everywhere interesting and entertaining, the text contains a minimum of "technical language" and a lot of adventure never related too seriously.”
George Bracksieck, „Rock & Ice” 1984, March,  No. 1, p. 18




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