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Item #: BK742-274
WHITE DEATH: TRAGEDY AND HEROISM IN AN AVALANCHE ZONE McKay Jenkins 2000 1st ed New Hardcover DJ
By Jenkins, McKay
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New York, 2000. 228 pp, 29 photos. New hardcover with dust jacket.

In 1969 5 climbers set out for the North Face of Mt Cleveland in Glacier Park and were buried in an avalanche. This is their story, and of avalanche's role in history. 

There's often a fine line between heroism and foolhardiness, as in the deaths in 1969 of five young Montana climbers (ages 18 to 22) who, against the advice of professional rangers, made a winter attempt on treacherous Mt. Cleveland in Montana's Glacier National Park and succumbed to an avalanche. In an engrossing tour de force, Jenkins, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer, re-creates this tragedy and also seamlessly interweaves a wealth of avalanche lore, science and history. Jenkins, writing in crisp, clean prose, fashions a deeply personal tale out of their adventure.

One of the five, Jerry Kanzler, an accomplished climber, was still recovering emotionally from his father's 1967 suicide; a certain bravado and desire to prove his manhood seems to have motivated him as well as his companions. Jerry's brother Jim, a ski instructor, risked his life trying to find and save the missing five, but it would take rescuers six months to locate the bodies. In 1976, to honor his brother, Jim Kanzler and two friends became the first climbers ever to scale Mt. Cleveland's steeply vertical north face.

Jenkins, who teaches writing at the University of Delaware, probes the metaphysical roots of mountaineering, spins tales of avalanches from Peru to New Zealand and covers the latest advances in avalanche science. He also explores avalanches in history, from Hannibal's devastating loss of men and horses in the French Alps to the WWII heroism of U.S. Alpine ski troops, who helped Allied forces capture German strongholds in the Italian Apennines.

By turns gripping, informative, and even frightening, The White Death probes the interplay of human endeavor in the mountains, the fragile beauty of snow, and nature's mysterious power. Jenkins succeeds admirably in melding human drama with the indifference of natural forces, allowing the 'avalanche-beast' to build in character through survivors' reports, news clippings, and scientific findings. The book's emotional centerpiece is the tragic story of an avalanche that roared down Mount Cleveland in Glacier National Park, where five young climbers set out to scale the treacherous North Face.

Just days into their climb, snow and strong winds set in. "What they saw could not have been inviting: snow clouds covered the mountain's summit...with loose powder avalanches regularly scrubbing it clean.' Bud Anderson, older brother to one of the climbers, flew his single-engine plane over the mountain to observe the team's progress. 'He hoped, perhaps, to rock his wings at them as a sign of encouragement, or congratulations.' Instead, 'his breath caught. The tracks ended at the unmistakable edge of a massive fresh avalanche..." Jenkins's stirring account pieces the clues and rescue efforts together to read like a true and terrible mystery being solved.

The horror of being buried alive by snow is vivid and sober among these pages, and is sure to chill climbers as well as those reading from the comforts of central heating. The author's vision is acute and helps better assess the bounds of our human capacity and domain


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