Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mount McKinley
It took a while, but when Art finally settled in and faced his book, he pulled off a remarkable thing. Here was no simple tale of heroism and valor, like Annapurna, but rather a vexed, uneven story of doubt, failure, whim, courage, tragedy. The team was unbalanced, with the strong members far superior to the others. Perhaps the strongest of all was killed in an absurd accident within the first hours of the expedition. The leader himself seemed to lose heart in mid-stream. Yet everything was redeemed by the magnificent accomplishment of the summit in early March, and then by the even more magnificent survival of Art, Dave Johnston, and Ray Genet.
The book Art wrote managed, as few expedition chronicles ever have, to deal directly with the conflicts that divided the party, to pay close attention to the personalities involved, to lay bare their weaknesses without disloyalty to the men (who indeed cooperated splendidly by lending diaries), and to narrate without flinching the details of the ordeal at Denali Pass. The potentially diffuse details of the plot came together in a compulsively readable story.
Minus 148 is one of the few true classics in the literature of mountaineering. It richly deserves a republication that will bring it a whole new generation of readers, hungry young climbers and armchair graybeards alike. It is an honor to salute the book's reappearance, and a pleasure to wish it well.
Mountaineers Books (July 1999)
8.2 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches