Cover image for Mountain men : a history of the remarkable climbers and determined eccentrics who first scaled the world's most famous peaks
Mountain men : a history of the remarkable climbers and determined eccentrics who first scaled the world's most famous peaks
Conefrey, Mick.
Personal Author:
First Da Capo Press edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Da Capo, 2002.

Physical Description:
281 pages : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London: Boxtree, 2001.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV200 .C66 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Imagine a world without IMAX or Gore-tex, before North Face, a world without mobile phones or high-altitude Internet links, super-light hiking boots and polyamide fleece. Imagine a time when the Alps were as remote as the Himalayas and the Himalayas as remote as the moon. Traversing a century of climbing that began with the Victorian enthusiasts and ended with the conquest of the great Himalayan peaks, Mick Conefrey and Tim Jordan take us back to that (not-so-distant) world to tell the stories of the extraordinary men who were the first to climb the world's best-known mountains - the Matterhorn, McKinley, Everest, and K2. Their quests provide welcome historical context and very modern thrills for readers of adventure narratives. Accompanied by unique archival materials, detailed maps, and photographs, Mountain Men invites us to follow in the footsteps of these fearless explorers, and tells us the stories with all their romance and stupidity, bravado and suffering, courage and miscalculation, intact. Meet the Mountain Men: Albert Smith was an impresario who climbed Mont Blanc with the help of 16 guides, 18 porters, and 90 bottles of spirits; his Piccadilly shows turned mountaineering from a folly into a sport. Edward Whymper, perhaps the greatest of the Victorian climbers, was the first to summit theMatterhorn, but not an hour later he lost four members of his party in a horrible accident that would shadow him for the rest of his life. The Duke of Abruzzi, heir to the Italian throne, reached the intimidating slopes of K2 in 1909 but concluded that no one could climb it in his lifetime-he was right. Mount McKinley was claimed by not one but several climbers, including America's great explorer - and, it turned out, fraudster-Dr. Frederick Cook, who had his porters take pictures of him on a look-alike crevasse many miles away from the actual mountain. The eccentric Maurice Wilson, convinced that he enjoyed God's protection, decided to climb Everest alone-just as soon as he taught himself to fly and got himself smuggled into Nepal. He got further than anyone could have dreamed, but his body was discovered frozen a hundred feet from a food cache left by an earlier party.

Author Notes

Mick Conefrey is a producer and director for the BBC. He produced the Mountain Men series and recently directed Icemen, Dancing in the Streets, and Even Further Abroad
Tim Jordan was the associate producer of Mountain Men. He has worked on several major documentary series including Icemen, CIA, and The Underworld

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

BBC producers Conefrey and Jordan (Icemen) have written an engrossing history of mountaineering that emphasizes the men who were driven to climb the Matterhorn, K2, Mount McKinley, and Everest. The book starts in 1853 with the opening of Albert Smith's Ascent of Mont Blanc show, a descriptive entertainment that aroused interest in alpinism. Until that time, mountains were gazed upon for pleasure but rarely climbed for sport. Smith inspired Edward Whymper, the first man to climb the Matterhorn, but death and controversy marred his party's descent. After unsuccessful and fatal forays up K2 by the duke of Abruzzi, Fritz Wiessner, and Charlie Houston, two Italians finally captured this mountaineering prize. The authors also describe Dr. Frederick Cook's 1903 expedition to McKinley, which led to a raucous debate regarding his first ascent claim. Various expeditions later disproved his claims, and McKinley wasn't climbed until 1913. Also included in this collection is the story of Maurice Wilson, who in 1934 believed that faith alone would enable him to climb Everest. This work successfully captures the personalities of these legendary and unknown mountaineers. The book accompanies a BBC television series and is highly recommended for mountaineering collections and public libraries. Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Lib., IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 The Man Who Sold the Alpsp. 8
2 The Misfit and the Matterhornp. 29
3 High Societyp. 59
4 The Shameless Diary of an Explorerp. 79
5 The Fingerprints of Dr. Cookp. 97
6 The Misplaced Optimism of Maurice Wilsonp. 136
7 The Rise and Fall of Fritz Wiessnerp. 160
8 Houston's Last Expeditionp. 201
9 The Jealous Mountainp. 222
10 Why Climb?p. 247
Bibliographyp. 265
Indexp. 271