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Item #: OP613-6892
ON TOP OF THE WORLD: MY ADVENTURES WITH MY MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING HUSBAND Patricia Petzoldt 1954 1st UK ed No DJ VG to Near Fine 2 Copies Available
By Petzoldt, Patricia
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London, 1954, 1st UK edition. 254pp, 9 illustrations. Blue cloth Hardcover No dust jacket, Very Good to Near Fine condition.  

Paul Petzoldt nearly reached the top of K2 in 1938, founded NOLS, and was a Grand Teton guide. This book has become quite sought after and difficult to find. Wiessner said that his 1939 K2 expedition would have succeeded if they had Petzoldt along.
 

Paul Petzoldt Is Dead at 91; Innovator in Rock Climbing

Paul Petzoldt, a pioneer of American mountaineering and a wilderness educator who founded the National Outdoor Leadership School, died on Wednesday in Topsham, Me. He was 91 and lived in nearby South Casco, Me.

A rugged individualist who influenced climbing in the United States for much of the 20th century, Mr. Petzoldt said that leadership and judgment could be taught with more technical outdoor skills. In later years, he became a voice for preserving the environment.

Paul Kiesow Petzoldt was born in Creston, Iowa, on Jan. 16, 1908, the last of nine children. He grew up on a farm in southern Idaho.

He was 16 when he set out in cowboy boots with a friend to scale the Grand Teton, a majestic peak 13,766 feet high in northwestern Wyoming that has become a mecca for rock climbers. ''We did everything wrong,'' Mr. Petzoldt said, but the ascent established him as a prodigy and planted the seeds of his later interest in creating an outdoor program that stressed safety and preparedness.

When he found that tourists in Grand Teton National Park would pay to go up into its mountains, Mr. Petzoldt started a guide service, one of the first in the country. He climbed the Grand Teton more than 300 times, until he was well into his 70's.

Mr. Petzoldt attended the Universities of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah from 1929 to 1932, but did not earn a degree. Yet he loved to teach, even as a guide. He developed a system of voice signals that mountaineers still use and innovative techniques for moving over snow.

When Mr. Petzoldt visited the Alps in 1934, he traversed the Matterhorn and then retraced his route over the 14,701-foot-high summit, on the same day.

In 1938, Mr. Petzoldt was invited to join an American team reconnoitering a route up K-2, the world's second-highest mountain, at 28,250 feet, in Pakistan's Karakoram range.

''He had no real expedition experience but he was a darned good climber,'' recalled Mr. Petzoldt's teammate Robert H. Bates, who is the honorary president of the American Alpine Club, which Mr. Petzoldt later joined.

Running short of food, the team chose Mr. Petzoldt to rope up with its leader, Charles S. Houston, for a last push. Swapping leads with Dr. Houston, Mr. Petzoldt climbed without supplementary oxygen to 26,000 feet, then a record for American alpinists.

Returning home through India, Mr. Petzoldt got into a fracas with an American medical missionary, who died after being knocked down. Patricia Petzoldt, the climber's first wife, wrote in her book, ''On Top of the World,'' that Mr. Petzoldt was arrested but avoided being jailed, after being bailed out by Charles Houston's father Oscar.

In 1941, Mr. Petzoldt joined other rock climbers to rescue a marooned parachutist who had landed atop Devil's Tower, an 865-feet-high fluted volcanic spire in Wyoming. Once they reached the parachutist, Mr. Petzoldt proposed leading him down, while Dick Durrance, who organized the rescue, and the other climbers followed. They descended to find Mr. Petzoldt briefing reporters and photographers in the glare of automobile headlights. The other rescuers had understood that they would talk to reporters together.

''Petzoldt later maintained that he had waited for the others but had missed them in the dark,'' Chris Jones wrote in his book, ''Climbing in North America.'' ''Durrance believed that Petzoldt had deliberately rushed ahead to get in front of the cameras.''

Mr. Petzoldt courted controversy. He did not apologize for profiting from his climbing ventures, encouraging attention from the news media, flirting with women or twisting arms. Former Senator Alan Simpson remembered being cornered by Mr. Petzoldt when he was a Wyoming state legislator.

''He grabbed me by the arm and said, 'Simpson, I'm going to talk to you and you're going to listen,' '' Mr. Simpson recalled. ''And I said, 'That sounds fair enough.' ''

Mr. Simpson, who now directs the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, described Mr. Petzoldt as a bear of a man with ''a big chest and big legs and big arms,'' and a Falstaffian appetite for life. ''He didn't suffer fools lightly, but he had time for everybody,'' Mr. Simpson said.

During World War II, Mr. Petzoldt taught safety techniques to the Tenth Mountain Division at Camp Hale, Colo. He also worked in the Department of Agriculture sending food to Russia.

After selling his guide service in 1955, Mr. Petzoldt tried alfalfa farming in Wyoming and soon went broke. In 1963, he joined the Outward Bound program in Colorado as its chief instructor. He left in 1965 to start the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyo. Its mission, he said, was ''to train leaders capable of conducting all-round wilderness programs in a safe and rewarding manner.'

Jane Howard later wrote in Life magazine that ''Petzoldt is to outdoorsmen what Heloise is to housewives: an endless and bountiful source of useful tips and hints.''

Mr. Petzoldt's Outward Bound successor in Colorado, Jed Williamson, said that Mr. Petzoldt became more outspoken on the environment. ''As Paul grew in the business of outdoor education, he recognized the need for paying attention to environmental ethics,'' said Mr. Williamson, who is president of Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vt.

More than 50,000 students have graduated from the National Outdoor Leadership School. They include David F. Breashears, who as a 15-year-old could not afford the school but applied anyway. Mr. Petzoldt gave him a scholarship.

''It was an indicator of his generosity as a person and his love for exposing young people to the outdoors that I got to attend,'' said Mr. Breashears, who has since climbed Mount Everest four times.

Until his stamina waned, Mr. Petzoldt tried to spend each New Year's Eve climbing the Grand Teton, packing a bottle of champagne for the summit.

Mr. Petzoldt's first three marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Virginia.

 

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