The Magician’s Glass
Ed Douglas Vertebrate Publishing
To read a collection of biographical essays written over the past decade, is to take a ref lective step back from the quotidian and ask some questions about climbing. Is it an art form? What happens when the muse no longer replies to your entreaties? Can it ensnare its most devoted practitioners in a web of lies? Are mountains and crags the mirrors of ourselves we think them to be?
The portraits Ed Douglas paints include some of the greatest sport climbers and alpinists of the past generation – Kurt Albert, Patrick Edlinger, Tomaz Humar, and Uli Steck. None of these towering f igures died restfully in their sleep listening to a bedtime playlist. Each recalibrated the norms associated with their chosen discipline. If writing can, in some magic way, render the complexities and contradictions of a person somewhat truthfully, Douglas sets the standard. Each piece in this collection bears the imprint of an author bringing his talents to bear on the world of climbers worth writing about.
When is it best to turn one’s back on climbing entirely? Have commercial forces dug their tentacles too deep into the soul of the sport? Is the Himalayan trekking and mountaineering industry a massive exploitation racket perpetrated by a deeply f lawed and corrupt government in Nepal? Did Cesare Maestri effectively erase his partner’s (Toni Egger’s) rightful narrative on Cerro Torre, the single most spectacular mountain on the planet? Douglas strives to give thoughtful answers. At the same time, he gives aspiring climbing writers a sense of how good they should be.