Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps

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Overview

Above the pastures of Switzerland, it was believed, dragons and ghosts inhabited the realms of ice and snow. No one in their right mind considered climbing into the Alps - and certainly not for pleasure." "In the late eighteenth century, however, scientific gentlemen began to turn their minds to these high places. What would the peaks tell us about the atmosphere, about weather, about glaciers? And so they set off, early pioneers like the Swiss geologist Saussure and his rival Bourrit, armed with gallons of wine,...
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Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps

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Overview

Above the pastures of Switzerland, it was believed, dragons and ghosts inhabited the realms of ice and snow. No one in their right mind considered climbing into the Alps - and certainly not for pleasure." "In the late eighteenth century, however, scientific gentlemen began to turn their minds to these high places. What would the peaks tell us about the atmosphere, about weather, about glaciers? And so they set off, early pioneers like the Swiss geologist Saussure and his rival Bourrit, armed with gallons of wine, roast fowl, theodolites and barometers, walking in their ordinary clothes up the sheer rocks into the unknown." "When the British came on the scene, mountain-climbing as an obsession, an art form and a sport was born. Full of the imperial confidence that had already conquered so much of Asia and Africa, Britons set out to plant their flag on every peak in the Alps. These early Alpine adventurers were fanatically competitive climbers. They included John Tyndall, the famous physicist who wished to test theories about how glaciers were formed; showmen, like Albert Smith, the Victorian impresario who made a fortune putting the conquest of Mont Blanc onto the London stage and zealots, like Edward Whymper, the wood engraver turned monomaniacal mountaineer. They fought each other on the peaks and in print, their rivalries lasting for years, and entertained a vast public in the process." "The great mountains were conquered one by one, by insouciant public schoolboys and dogged tradesmen alike. The glaciers accumulated mangled bodies that made their way slowly down to the valleys. More and more tourists came; the dragons were dead. By the third decade of the twentieth century onlythe suicidally dangerous north faces of the Eiger and Matterhorn remained to be climbed by proteges of Hitler and Mussolini.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Showing a remarkable ability to mix well-researched history with engaging depictions of the people who made it, Fleming (Barrow's Boys) chronicles the many frigid explorations that brought much of the world its first scientific knowledge of Europe's highest peaks. Fleming remains true to the qualities that made his first book, a study of England's frenzied 19th-century global exploration, so enjoyable. He not only supplies an abundance of information but also punctuates his facts with wit and illustrative stories. Beginning with the first Alpine forays in the early 1700s and continuing through later explorations up until World War II, Fleming outlines the prominent figures who braved the mountains' austere climate in the name of science and, more often, the spirit of vanity. The title refers to the entrenched belief that the Alps' upper reaches were inhabited by a dangerous menagerie of fairy-tale brutes. It was a sentiment that died hard. With characteristic wit, he describes a German physics professor who reconnoitered in the mountains in the 18th century and "set at rest a question that had haunted people for a long time. Yes, the Alps did contain dragons." The landscape's ethereal nature surely inspired the imagination, but eventually explorers became more concerned with bettering their knowledge and, among later English climbing rivals, besting each other. The characters Fleming discusses range from Rousseau to the Romantic poets, from genuine innovators to the "Indefatigable Bourrit," who was defeated by the elements on nearly every climb he attempted. Agent, Clarie Alexander at Gillon Aitken Associates. (Jan.) Forecast: Fleming's second book should get same enthusiastic critical reception as his first. Though the mountaineering history niche is increasingly crowded, Fleming's work stands out for its deft combination of humor, fact and Technicolor description, so strong reviews and good word of mouth should propel sales. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
This breezy, even gossipy account of two centuries of alpine adventure is a good introduction to the vast literature on the topic. Fleming gives highlights of the first ascents, disastrous falls, spirited rivalries, and, finally, philosophic controversies. Along the way he quotes extensively from climbers' journals and the classic published accounts of their exploits. The book could have been subtitled The British Conquest of the Alps, for except for the French, who first stood on Mont Blanc, the highest but not the most difficult peak in the Alps, the British dominate the story. The names in this book are a role call of foolhardy bravery and tenacity: Paccard and Balmat on Mont Blanc (1786); Saussure, Agassiz, and Forbes' investigation of glacial mechanics; Wills, who ushered in the "Golden Age" of British alpinism, atop the Wetterhorn (1854); Tyndall and Whymper's rivalry over the Matterhorn (1865); and finally, decades later, the epitome of 20th-century mountaineering, the five-day climb straight up the hellish Eigerwand by Germans laden with hardware and patriotism (1938). By that time the British had moved on to the Himalayas and people had begun to question where bravery and daring end and psychopathology begins. In the early 20th century the Alps were no longer known for terrifying wildness and romantic sublimity but had become a center for TB sanatoriums and resorts for winter sports. The "conquest" of the Alps has taken many forms. Killing Dragons, so named because of the monsters once thought to have lived in the mountain reaches, has several illustrations and is excellently indexed, but one wishes the editors had included an annotated chronology to help keep themany minor characters straight. They might also have added a better map and some diagrams of the famous mountaineering routes. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating book. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Grove Press, dist. by Publishers Group West, 398p. illus. bibliog. notes. index., Healy
MacFarlane
A fine book...tremendously exciting...
Times Literary Supplement
E.S. Turner
The feats of derring-do brought off by the pioneers of Alpinism are excellently described in Killing Dragons, but no less fascinating are the character studies of those who blended nerve and guts with sourness, choler, jealousy and general crothetiness.
London Review of Books
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802138675
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,045,173
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.27 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2014

    TO ALL NEW DRAGONS

    Greetings! I am NightBlade and welcome to my mountain, The Shadow. Res 1 is for important info only. Res 2 is for bios. In your bios, include what job you want after looking at the jobs by scrolling down. There are five types of dragons you can be: Fire, who can breathe fire and make an avalanche. Ice who can freeze and create hailstorms. Wind, who can move very quickly and create tornados. Earth, who can hypnotize and create earthquakes. Shadow, who can teloport and creat complete darkness. Res 3-7 are for chatting. There will also be special events like trolling other people.

    These are the positions. I will tell you daily what spots are taken. All applying must be in res 6.

    King: NightBlade
    Queen( Must take on the job of assisting the king) this job can be only earned through persuasion in res 6.
    Warrior 1-10 Job: Protect our mountain. You will get the job depending on your bio.
    Warriors Mates/Supporter 1-10 Job: Mate a warrior and take care of him and the hatchlings. You will get the job depending on you bio
    Meds 1-5 Job: Practice in the art of healing. And yes, magic healing is allowed. You will get the job depending on your bio
    Hunters 1-7 Job: Brings food to the mountain. You will get the job depending on your bio.
    Casters 1-3 Job : Preforms the act of magic. You will get the job depending on your bio.

    Choose fast befor you job gets taken by someone else and spread the news about our mountian.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2014

    No mindreading?

    For shadows.

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