The Games Climbers Play

Review by Review
Tuesday 16th May 2006

The Games Climbers Play - edited by Ken Wilson

This is a difficult book to review. I first read it nearly thirty years ago, dipping into it when opportunity and inclination coincided. I remember several of the snippets well. It was then a welcome grown-up brother to The Climbers’ Weekend Book and The Mountaineer’s Companion.

But now, it’s different. Or rather, it’s not. The book’s virtually the same - 100 stories spread over 558 pages as opposed to 125 over 888. Not even a re-working or meaningful updating. Oh, except for the cover: an eye-catching photograph of Leo Houlding on the first ascent of Trauma on Dinas Mot. 1999. Ah-ha, I’d like to read about that. No chance. Sharp practice? Misrepresentation? Take your choice; it’s certainly unconnected with any of the ageing contents.

Guess which is the re-print?

Ken Wilson airily brushes aside the need for an update: ‘As a statement of its time a general revision seemed unwise.’ There, that was easy, wasn’t it? Yet the mother lode certainly exists to provide adequate material for, if not a ‘revision’, a further volume. Look at the mouth-watering list of ‘Some Mountaineering Books published since 1977’.p.276.

Wilson chose to restrict his selection of articles for The Games ‘from magazines and journals…leaving much interesting work from books to be examined in some later volume.’

So here we are, with a tired, unchanged reprint under a misleading cover to whip up sales.

What of the content? That’s where objectivity is difficult. Consuming a huge box of chocolates at one sitting is both tedious and unpleasant. To dip in at random would be misleading and inaccurate. When every article is read (OK, the first 300 pages before I ran totally out of enthusiasm and started getting picky), the stars shine out. Messner’s ‘The Murder of the Impossible’ and Chouinard’s ‘Coonyard Mouths Off’ are timeless and should be required reading for all aspiring New Routers or Big Name Baggers. And a solid score of others will find an appreciative modern-day audience. But too many others are now dated and lacking in concurrent interest to inspire or astound.

The book isn’t expensive and, for something to be opened occasionally, perhaps just worth buying.




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