Showing posts with label adirondacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adirondacks. Show all posts

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Book Review: At the Mercy of the Mountains by Peter Bronski


Title: At the Mercy of the Mountains: True Stories of Survival and Tragedy in New York's Adirondacks
Author: Peter Bronski
Publisher: Lyons Press
Publication Date: February 26, 2008
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

In the tradition of Eiger Dreams, In the Zone: Epic Survival Stories from the Mountaineering World, and Not Without Peril, comes a new book that examines the thrills and perils of outdoor adventure in the “East’s greatest wilderness,” the Adirondacks.


My Review:

Fun fact: before I was a mom, I climbed MOUNTAINS!
At the summit of Algonquin Peak (second highest in the Adirondacks), September 2006
Yes indeed.  I grew up in Connecticut, which does not have much mountainous terrain to speak of, but after college I moved to New York, and my now-husband introduced me to hiking.  I quickly grew to love it, and before long, the two of us had our sights set on becoming Adirondack 46ers--people who have climbed all 46 of the Adirondack mountains higher than 4,000 feet.  Currently, I am only a 15er (having kids slowed us quite a bit--not my idea of a good time to bring a baby and a preschooler up a trail-less peak), but the other 31 will most definitely be reached one day.

It's easy to fall in love with the Adirondacks.  The landscape is gorgeous--there is nothing like getting to a summit and being treated to a view like this:
View from Cascade Mountain, 2005
It's peaceful.  The air smells cleaner.  It is a true escape from the distractions of every day life.  Not to mention the feeling of accomplishment when you are standing on top of a FRIGGIN' MOUNTAIN.

However, despite my many forays into the Adirondack wilderness, I admit that as a beginning hiker, I took my safety and preparedness for granted.  My husband and I only ever hiked on clear, beautiful summer/fall days, with little risk of a sudden storm...and never in the winter.  (You can also become a Winter 46er if you hike them all in that season!)  My husband always had a ton of what I thought of as "extra" gear with him...water filter, camp stove, head lamp, etc.  Meanwhile, I had water, snacks, my hiking poles, maybe some extra clothes, and that was it.  What else could we possibly need?

Bronski's At the Mercy of the Mountains convinced me that, not only was I extremely naive, but we need ALL THE THINGS the next time we hike.  He has compiled some of the most notorious and dramatic search-and-rescue stories from the Adirondacks, dating from the earliest hikers to the present.  Avalanches, freak snowstorms, and flash floods, while not daily occurrences, are a part of the reality of the Adirondacks.  When you add in an ill-prepared hiker/skiier/canoeist, without extra provisions or proper backcountry navigation skills, disaster could easily strike.

I enjoyed Bronski's collection of misadventures because he does not present them in a fearmongering or alarmist way.  In fact, that would go quite counter to his motives--Bronski loves the Adirondacks himself, and hopes that others will share in that admiration.  But loving the wilderness also means understanding and respecting it.  He brings forth these unfortunate stories to help other outdoorsmen/women gain an understanding of how to proceed into the woods with the right equipment and know-how.  Plus, the book highlights the hard work of Adirondack forest rangers and search-and-rescue volunteers, which is fascinating in itself.

Any reader interested in true-life outdoor adventure stories (Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer comes to mind) will dig this book, though it will, admittedly, appeal the most to lovers of the Adirondacks specifically.  ADK hikers will recognize many of the peaks and landmarks that are described, which adds a nice sense of familiarity while reading.  However, Bronski does a great job illustrating the setting, so readers who have never visited the Adirondacks will also get a lot of enjoyment out of the experience.

So, who wants to buy me a new hiking pack for Christmas?

Any other outdoor enthusiasts out there?  Do you have any backcountry mishaps to share?  Go ahead, don't be shy...maybe we can learn from you, too! :)
 
Imagination Designs