"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Friday, September 16, 2011

Alan Arnette and a Seven Summits Update

For the most current Everest coverage from Alan, visit www.alanarnette.com

Alan Arnette continues his climb of the Seven Summits to raise support for Alzheimer's Research. Having successfully tagged the summit of Mt. Everest, amongst others, he is now climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. Here is one of Alan's posts, from just a few days ago, as he began his ascent of the fabled volcano.

Higher on Kilimanjaro

Vicky Jack's Seven Summit Adventure

The Sky's the Limit: Vicky Jack and Her Quest to Climb the Seven SummitsThe Sky's the Limit: Vicky Jack and Her Quest to Climb the Seven Summits by Vicky Jack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Over the past year I’ve followed climber Alan Arnette as he seeks to reach the highest summit on each continent--the aptly named “Seven Summits.” (Arnette is doing it to raise support for Alzheimer’s research.) In addition to following his blog, I decided to seek out a book about previous climbers who’ve attempted this feat. My local bookstore happened to have The Sky’s the Limit: The Story of Vicky Jack and Her Quest to Climb the Seven Summits.

More than any other climbing book I’ve read, this retelling of Ms. Jack’s adventure gets a light and life-affirming treatment. This book is highly congratulatory and inspirational, in contrast to other climbing tomes that focus on controversy. For a few chapters, I even worried this book would prove too watered down to be compelling.

In particular, the chapter on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro almost reads like a day trip—and climbing that African summit is no small achievement. So my one literary criticism would be that author Anna Magnusson doesn’t appear to have dug especially deep. However, like the heroine of the story, The Sky’s the Limit won me over. In fact, I read the whole thing in one marathon Saturday session.

As the book progresses, and as Ms. Jack’s climbs grow increasingly risky, the narrative likewise deepens and intensifies. This may not be an exhaustively researched biography, but neither is it skin-deep or forgettable. It is personable and engaging in ways that other climbing books sometimes lack. Plus, it’s quite fun to read. I relished the chance to unabashedly root for someone fulfilling her dream.

I would place The Sky’s the Limit alongside Touching My Father’s Soul, as a book that treats an almost mythical quest in a remarkably personal and life-affirming way. There are doubtless more prestigious accounts of climbing the Seven Summits available. But this book caters especially well to readers like me who aren’t mountain climbers. In particular, if you are looking for an adventure book with a worthy female role-model, The Sky’s the Limit is well worth seeking out.

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