Thursday, April 18, 2013

Apologies, I know I'm coming in on the discussion late...but I'll just jump right in.

I thought The White Spider presented an interesting contrast to last week's Scrambles Amongst the Alps.  Both books describe first ascents and declare a purpose of sharing the history and tactics of climbing the mountain, but the author's tones and are quite different. Though Whymper was a highly informative read on the routes and safety on the Matterhorn, he also threw rocks at another team of climbers in a terrific show of poor sportsmanship. Harrer, however, is full of good words for the other fellows who attempted the mountain before and after him while creating an amateur encyclopedia of climbing the Eiger. He and his partner even joined another team in that first ascent. Certainly, the circumstances were very different, as Harrer was not yet a well-known climber and perhaps lacked the Whymper's mountaineering ego, but it made his success accessible in way that Whymper's was not. My intention is not to judge the value of these adventures based on their narrative voices, but to call attention to one of the elements that made the accounts feel distinct to me.

1 comment:

  1. I also found that Harrer's narrative voice was much different from any of the other adventure writers we've read so far. He is much more optimistic about the climbing community. Harrer concludes his account with the following thought: "But now let us stop talking about death; let us think of and believe in life and the beauty of mountaineering. Let us not now worry about the lack of organisation at the last rescue on the Eiger; let us only see what was uplifting, grand, communal, the will to help" (254). I feel like this wraps up a narrative largely about tragedy a bit too sweetly. It counteracts his supposed purpose (to warn others of the perils of climbing the Eiger). Ending the text in such a way seems irresponsible and self-indulgent.