Fred Beckey's 100 Favorite North American Climbs
Finding a balance between coffee table book and guidebook
Let me first say that within minutes of even finding out that this book existed, I had already ordered it on Amazon. I read some reviews, mostly positive, but one common thread kept coming up: there were a disappointingly small number of photos. I'd already ordered it, so there was nothing to be done.
When it arrived, I was impressed. It's a burly 9 1/4" by 13 1/4" book. I normally remove dust jackets from my hardcovers because I tend to wreck them; this one is staying on. Robert Meshew's glorious photo and the simple design of the cover text draw you in immediately. It is truly a lovely book, and one you'd be proud to have off the shelf and on the coffee table.
Fred starts off with a great foreword, giving more personal history than I've ever read. Those readers familiar with Fred's writing style will laugh heartily at his admission that he has "attempted to avoid the typically terse imperatives of guidebook prose" in this book.
After the foreword follows two pages of topo legend and topo references, with notes on nomenclature, altitudes and distances, complete with a legal disclaimer (oh, the world in which we live!). Then Barry Blanchard introduces the book. His reminiscences are both informative and poignant, lauding Fred without flattering. When one considers what Yvon Chouinard says about Fred, that he "has done more first ascents than any other human has, or ever will," Blanchard's introduction tells you much of how that has come to pass. His tone is affectionate without being overly nostalgic.
The body of the book is the one hundred climbs Fred considers his favorites. He breaks them out by region, starting in the Pacific Northwest, continuing on through Alaska, BC, the Canadian Rockies, Selkirks and Bugaboos, the High Rockies, the Sierra Nevada, the Southwest Desert, and ends with Appalachia and Mexico.
Each entry is structured like a guidebook entry, with the exception containing far more historical information. Basic data is listed in the margin (altitude, FA/FWA, grade, gear, etc.), and many routes include excellent full-page topos. In reading through this section, I began to understand the criticisms on Amazon about the book lacking photos, but the longer I read, the more I disagreed with the criticism. Each entry begins with a beautiful photo that takes up at least a third of the page, and most entries are concluded with smaller photos. In addition to the main entries, Fred has also provided short lists of other climbs of note in many of the regions.
The design of the book is lovely: very simple with little adornment. The binding includes a study ribbon for marking your place, and the dust jacket is heavy-duty with a matte finish.
Copyright 2011 Patagonia Books, 308pp, 100% recycled paper
Library of Congress Control Number 2011933928