Early Days in the Range of Light: Encounters with Legendary Mountaineers

Overview

It's 1873. Modern climbing gear and Gore-Tex shells are a century away, but the high mountains still demand your attention. Imagine the stone in your hands and thousands of feet of open air below you, with only a wool jacket to weather a storm and no rope to catch a fall.

Daniel Arnold did more than imagine—he spent four years retracing the precarious steps of his climbing forefathers and lived to tell their tales here. From 1864 to 1931, the Sierra Nevada witnessed some of the ...

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Early Days in the Range of Light: Encounters with Legendary Mountaineers

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Overview

It's 1873. Modern climbing gear and Gore-Tex shells are a century away, but the high mountains still demand your attention. Imagine the stone in your hands and thousands of feet of open air below you, with only a wool jacket to weather a storm and no rope to catch a fall.

Daniel Arnold did more than imagine—he spent four years retracing the precarious steps of his climbing forefathers and lived to tell their tales here. From 1864 to 1931, the Sierra Nevada witnessed some of the most audacious climbing of all time. In the spirit of his predecessors, Arnold carried only rudimentary equipment—no ropes, no harness, no specialized climbing shoes.

In an artful blend of history, biography, nature, and adventure writing, Arnold brings to life both the journeys and the stunning terrain. In the process he uncovers the motivations that drove an extraordinary group of individuals to risk so much for the summits of our most fabled landscapes.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A spirited journey in the footsteps-or footholds-of the mountaineers who first explored the Sierra Nevada. An experienced climber in the mountains of California, Arnold decided to trace his literary and alpinistic ancestry by examining "high and visually striking" mountains that inspired other adventurers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, profiling the men who undertook them in the process. Over several years, he divided his time between library and mountain wall. In order to recapture his ancestors' spirits, he "had to climb the way they did," which meant leaving behind safety ropes, carabineers and other "modern climbing paraphernalia." His first stop was Mount Brewer, high in the Sierra, whose namesake had been climbing the range since 1860 from the Mexican border to Mount Shasta, but who had not visited the central, toughest wilderness of peaks behind Yosemite, "a dense parade of mountains, sharp summits, and narrow spires," until 1864. A weird pyramid of broken boulders awaited him and his party, a mountain that captivated Brewer, who "had seen nothing so large and lonely in America, nor so desolate." Similar experiences awaited Clarence King, John Muir, Norman Clyde and other legendary climbers, who exploits introduced lowlanders to such things as Kings Canyon and Mount Whitney. Arnold had plenty of exploits of his own, as when, on Mount Clarence King high in the middle Sierra, he stepped on a loose plate of rock and watched as it caromed down 500 feet, striking a cliff several times before exploding, "filling the air with thunder and a smell like shot gunpowder." Yet, as he recounts, only five minutes later the mountains are quiet again, having absorbed the event and regainingtheir eternal composure. This well-written combination of history, memoir and travelogue should find a welcome home in many climbing collections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582435190
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 9/29/2009
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 30, 2009

    A delightful read for both adventurers and naturalists

    The mixing of history and personal experience in Dan Arnold's book is truly unique. What may initially sound a little strange - someone repeating the early mountaineer's routes with era-appropriate provisions - comes off as much more interesting and insightful than expected. Not having read much of John Muir and Clarence King on my own, I was fascinated by Dan's ability to bring their perspectives to life through his own experiences in the Sierra. One of my favorite passages reads:

    "Muir is occasionally criticized for writing purple prose. Some say he is too florid. Here is how he described the morning after his night under the tree . . .'How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountain! To behold this alone is worth the pains of an excursion a thousand times over...' Personally, I find this passage beautiful, but I did not understand it until, after my week-long-night, I saw the blueing of the eastern sky and the grayness on the canyon's western wall. Muir is not just dealing in exciting visuals. He's describing a moment of transcendent gladness, the moment when night finally ends and a new day is born with light and warmth."

    Such passages are coupled with descriptions of adventurous climbs that any reader of mountaineering literature or avid follower of the Banff Mountain Film Festival would find mesmerizing. It is truly an enjoyable read from cover to cover, for literary and adventure-lovers alike.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2011

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