Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering

Norton. Apr. 2016. 448p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393068504. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393292527. SPORTS
OrangeReviewStarIsserman (history, Hamilton Coll.; coauthor, Fallen Giants) brings masterly storytelling and an eye for detail to the history of American mountaineering, beginning with the colonialists' first encounters with mountains in the 17th century and ending with the golden age of climbing in the mid-1960s. Chapters are all-encompassing narratives of prominent climbers and first ascents, allowing Isserman to pinpoint the emergence of modern mountain climbing, notably the Belknap-Cutler expedition in July 1784 on New Hampshire's Mount Washington. Additionally, the author traces the geologic history of America's mountain ranges and considers the changing nature of climbing, including the construction of hiking trails, the introduction of the sport's gear, and the expansion of adventuring beyond East Coast enclaves. Isserman's deft use of resources, archives, and firsthand accounts make this a wonderful gem of a work that readers can mine for inspiration.
VERDICT This broad sweep of American mountaineering history will satisfy general history readers and outdoor adventurers alike.

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