Imaginary Peaks: The Riesenstein Hoax and Other Mountain Dreams

Mountaineers. Oct. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781680515411. $2w6.95. SPORTS
In 1962, Summit magazine published an article describing a first attempt climbing the Riesenstein peaks of British Columbia. The article tantalized with lofty granite walls, unclaimed firsts, and wonderment as to whom would be the first to climb it. Turns out, no one as it was a hoax. Ives (editor in chief, Alpinist magazine) takes readers on a literary adventure documenting imaginary geographic spaces and how this custom continues into the modern age, culminating briefly in the Riesenstein Hoax. Three mountaineers crafted the hoax: guidebook author Harvey Manning, photographer and glaciologist Austin Post, and glaciologist Ed LaChapelle. (Manning was the hoaxer-in-chief). Based on interviews with the hoaxers’ colleagues, family, and friends, as well as articles, books, letters, personal memories and archival research, Ives is immersed in Manning’s world, where fact and fiction blend to create geographic unknowns and imagined spaces. Ives’s writing is engaging throughout, bringing readers into the world of climbing while also telling the story of why this climbing fantasy was easily seen as a reality. The Riesensteins mountains exist but not where the hoaxers claimed; they are the Kichatnas or Cathedral Spires in Alaska.
VERDICT For readers of exploration or literary adventure and those seeking the lost art of getting lost.
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