measureofamountainBruce Barcott’s The Measure of a Mountain takes us on a journey through history, geology the culture of a mountain, then culminates in a more dramatic account of his own attempt and successful completion of a climb of what he describes as one of America’s most dangerous mountains.

Barcott begins benignly enough with a backpacking trip around the mountains base, with tales of rain soaked, not entirely pleasant trips interspersed with lessons on geology, seismology, and an examination of marmots.

The author seems to be building himself up for greater adventures, and eventually treks up to Camp Muir, where primitive shelters house climbers the night before their big assents. But he turns around, needing more time to decide whether to make the big push up. Eventually he does, with his father.

The Measure of a Mountain is broad and difficult to classify. I’d call it part true adventure, part natural history, part catharsis for the author. It’s a perfect mix of information for someone like myself who is interested in both natural history and outdoor adventure. There’s enough information to keep you interested, without the sometimes-exhausting level of detail found in a book like Guns, Germs and Steel.

Synopsis and reviews at Powell’s.