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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
During his lifetime, Anatoli Boukreev climbed 11 of the world's 14 8,000-meter peaks. He set numerous speed records on solo ascents, and on group missions rescued countless climbers from the "death zone." Above the Clouds, a compilation of Boukreev's journal entries, unveils the rich interior life of the controversial Russian/Kazakh legend.
Followers of mountaineering literature are well acquainted with Boukreev. Jon Krakauer's 1997 bestseller, Into Thin Air, was critical of Boukreev's behavior during the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster. The Climb, Boukreev's own bestselling version of events, put a contrary spin on the ill-fated expedition.
Above the Clouds adds much-needed perspective on Boukreev's mountaineering life: The Everest disaster was not the first that he faced. So what possesses a climber to repeatedly put his life at risk? For Boukreev, it was simply a case of being more comfortable in the mountains than anywhere else. "I do not fear climbing high.... Down below, when I become immersed in the problems of ordinary life, there is fear sometimes."
Boukreev was nurtured by the school of Soviet mountaineering, a program that he believed "[compared] with the Soviet Union's great accomplishments in space exploration, science, and the discipline of Russian ballet." The school was disbanded with the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the loss of these cultural underpinnings left Boukreev ill at ease. He did not enjoy leading inexperienced climbers up Mt. Everest, but needed the commissions to fund his own projects.
In his journals, Boukreev shows great respect for Scott Fischer, the esteemed American mountaineer who perished high on Everest. Boukreev met his own maker on Christmas Day, 1997, when he was caught in an avalanche on the deadly slopes of Annapurna. He died in what was for him a holy place: "Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambitions to achieve. They are cathedrals, grand and pure, the houses of my religion.... In the mountains I celebrate creation, for on each journey I am reborn." (Brenn Jones)