Climbing Fiction

The climbing world is rich with plot, action, and "characters," often elucidated in the niche genre of climbing fiction. It's a niche where few succeed, maybe because, as the author Jeff Long put it, "Where does fiction belong in a sport that almost defies fiction?"


!0U!S L'fllHOHB'S


Stranger than fiction?

IOn Christmas Eve 1977, a Lockheed Lodestar plane crashed into a lake in Yosemite National Park's backcountry. When authorities located the crash site, the plane and its cargo of marijuana bales were already frozen beneath the lake. Authorities waited for the spring thaw to clear the crash site, but according to legend, a group of savvy climbers used chainsaws to recover the bales and made a killing re-selling the weed. The tale became the basis for the author and climber Jeff Long's novel Angels of Light, first published in 1987 and upon which the Hollywood cheesefest Cliff hanger was loosely based.

2 Publishers almost passed on Angels of Light "I originally approached Playboy," Long says, "They agreed to publish it in their Drug Issue, but they canceled the issue because of Nancy Reagan's 'Just Say No' campaign." Harper Perennial eventually agreed to publish the story, as a paperback novel, alongside Long's non-fiction Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo.

3 Angels of Light wasn't Long's first foray into climbing fiction. In 1974, friend and fellow climber Michael Tobias submitted Long's psychedelic novella The Soloist Diary to Ascent magazine. The surreal story follows three climbers trapped on a wall, left to face their inner demons as they pass the hanging bodies of long-dead climbers.

4 French author René Daumal crafted one of vertical literature's most powerful and disturbing tales with Mount Analogue. The novel takes place on the allegorical Mount Analogue, an inaccessible summit said to Sink heaven and earth. Although only four and a

| half chapters long, the novel, with its abrupt, | mid-sentence ending, has left plenty of read-i ers frustrated. Paralleling Daumal's life arc, Mount Analogue didn't see publication until i 1952 —eight years after the author's untimely i death...before he'd completed the work.

5 In 1956, W.E. Bowman published The Ascent of Rum Doodle, which follows a i band of disaster-prone British climbers up the fictional Rum Doodle Mountain (40,000.5 1 feet). According to Bill Bryson's introduction, i many readers postulated that W.E. Bowman 1 was a famous climber's pseudonym - readers i believed the number 153, which appears [ throughout the novel, might be a clue to

Bowman's true identity. According to Bryson, i however, the only time Bowman saw moun-1 tains was on a trip to Switzerland, and the i number 153 was a childhood address.

6 The Ascent of Rum Doodle has a cult-like following and climbers have named peaks ■ and climbs after the book. Antarctica is home to the first Rum Doodle Peak, so-named in ' 1959, "There is a sleeping bag called Rum-i doodle, a climbing company, a horse, and even a rock band," Bowman's son Ghee Bowman i states on his website.

7 When the remains of her ex-boyfriend are found in the trunk of her car, world-class climber Darby Moore finds herself running i from the law in Kyle Mills' 2001 thriller Free Fall. Although Mills, a climber for nearly 20 i years, worked to make his climbing prose i accurate, fellow grimpeurs offered a couple 1 corrections. "I think it was John Sherman i who pointed out that I'd put Lactic Acid Bath in the wrong area at the New [River Gorge],"

Mills said. "I hadn't bothered to look it up because I'd once worked that route. My sense of direction has never been all that outstanding."

8 Clinton McKinzie, author and climber of 16 years, made climbing the subject of his book Edge of Justice. "Climbing is about the only activity I can think of where death is an ever-present possibility," says McKinzie. "One stupid mistake...and you're dead meat. What can be more suspenseful than that?"

9 Paul Watkins' The Ice Soldier (2005) captures the grim and gritty circumstances the British army mountaineer corps faced in the Italian Alps during World War II. The novel follows Captain William Bromley, an instructor for the British Royal Marines and veteran of the battle of Palladino, as he confronts the ghosts of his past and climbing partners lost. One passage from the novel states: "Climbing was for everyone...and anyone who didn't climb had missed out on one of the greatest joys on this earth."

And of course, many authors with no climbing experience choose mountain settings for their novels. Among Western novelist Louis L'Amour's 89 novels is Sitka, set in Alaska near the base of Mount Edgecombe. Romance writer Nora Roberts chose the Big Beit Mountains of Montana for her 2000 novel Montana Sky. Bestselling author Christine Feehan chose the Carpathian Mountains of Romania as the backdrop for her vampire/ romance thriller Dark Desire. "I love the mountains and the beauty of nature, especially forests," Feehan states. "They can add more scope, more ominous, dangerous situations, or a very beautiful, sensual atmosphere," e*""

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