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Dougal Haston: The Philosophy of Risk

by Jeff Connor

Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2002. 225 pages

Dougal Haston: The Philosophy of Risk, 1st UK EditionDougal Haston: The Philosophy of Risk

“Laconic Scottish hardman Dougal Haston rose from humble beginnings as a baker's son to become one of the beautiful people of fashionable 1970s Leysin, Switzerland. Along the way he gained fame as a world-famous mountaineer, with landmark ascents in his native Scotland, the Alps, and the Himalaya, before his untimely demise at age 36 in an avalanche while skiing. The Philosophy of Risk is a no-punches-pulled look at the man behind the glitter, including his ambitions and personal relationships.”
Colin Wells, “Climbing” 2002, No. 214, p. 93

“The author, Jeff Connor, has penetrated into Dougal's life far more than anyone expected, or thought possible, and has possibly provided a backbone for several books for future imaginative authors. I am certain that several mountaineers who climbed with Dougal could put together another version of Dougal's life, equally compelling as The Philosophy of Risk. (…) The book is a good insight into the life of the often troubled and conscientious young Dougal to the confident man of his time. Written in Jeff Connor's punchy journalistic style it makes a compelling story.”
Paul Braithwaite, “High” 2002, April, No. 233, p. 79

“We are left with an unsatisfied appetite for more about Haston's mountaineering career, which spanned some of the most interesting years in our history. Though cut short by an avalanche, it was a career equal to those of most of the truly great climbers of the 20th century. And it was one that could never have been as colorfully eventful and as brilliantly successful if Haston had not been the generous, intuitive, intelligent, courageous—and somewhat flawed— person that he was.”
Larry Ware, „American Alpine Journal” 2004, p. 450-452

“Trouble is, Haston is by no means the book's most interesting character. Robin Smith holds more allure (Baptist to Haston's Christ) and there is the intriguing Jimmy Marshall: talent scout, mentor, kingmaker. Haston himself is portrayed as brooding, insular, driven and dark, although Connor fails to make much headway as to why. Haston's one-of-the-gods lifestyle clearly suited and indeed fuelled his character, but I was left wondering what created such a mindset. (I was also left wondering why he name-changed from Duncan to Dougal: Connor doesn't say.)

In terms of the biographic basics, Connor does a reasonable job. He writes cleanly and unfussily, as one would expect of an established journalist, and can be forgiven making reference to Mount Schiehallion, to Graham Tiso's winter 'ascent' of the Cuiliin Ridge and (repeatedly) to someone called Rheinhold Messner. The main gripe falls not at Connor's door but at Canongate's gate: the woeful lack of an index.”
Dave Hewitt, “On The Edge” 2002, May, No. 117, p. 64-65


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