LFTOer Book Review: On the Roof of the World

Book Title:  On the Roof of the World � The Guardian Book of Mountains
Book Author:  Edited by Richard Nelsson
Book Publisher: Guardian Books
ISBN Number: 978-0-85265-120-9
Price:   �8.99 (Paperback)

Reviewer: Julian Cartwright (Dudie)

The Guardian newspaper has a �tradition of accurate and balanced reportage of mountain matters and personalities � unparalleled in British journalism.� � due, we are told, to a long line of editorial staff who have also been keen climbers and mountaineers.

It is their writings that have been gathered from the Guardian�s archives for this book.

�On the Roof of the World� presents a history of our nation�s activities in the world�s mountains, through contemporary newspaper reports, presented chronologically from 1897 to the present day.

While not claiming to be the definitive guide to British mountaineering, the book aims to cover key climbing and mountaineering events over the last century.

What this provides the reader with is a disparate collection of essays, with a bias towards chronicling early climbing exploits in the Peak District (due to its proximity to the newspaper�s original Manchester home) and the many attempts on Everest over the years.

In amongst these are some interesting and often amusing pieces (should a lady remove her skirts before climbing?) that convey the change in social make-up of mountaineering over the years, from moneyed Victorian alpinists to the formation of climbing clubs for the working classes, to the emergence of sport climbing and the appearance of a more �extreme� breed of climber in more recent years.

While �On the Roof of the World� is an often entertaining and interesting read, by the very nature of its format (a collection of newspaper reports), it lacks the in-depth information on the routes, the people and the drama that many of us will crave.

While worth a read to those with a passing interest in mountaineering history or those new to the activity and wishing to know a little of its background, most of us will, I feel, prefer something with a little more substance.

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