Photo by Amine M’siouri

Reflections on Mountaineering: Journey Through Life As Experiences In The Mountains is a poetic love letter to the unconquerable spirits of the Earth’s peaks.

Mountaineering has been a regular practice, if not a hobby, for a long time. People have been scaling mountains since as early as 1336 as a hobby. Sir Alfred Wills‘ rise of the Swiss Wetterhorn in 1865 was deemed the beginning of mountaineering as a sport.

Mountaineering is a lifelong outlook rather than a mere hobby. 

Unlike most other extreme sports, mountaineering is distinctly suited to be a lifelong outlook rather than a one-time experience; cliff diving and base jumping might be fun the first few times, but it is the same activity every time. In contrast, mountaineering every mountain is a fresh experience, not to mention the feeling of fulfillment from dominating each new mountain.

About Goldman’s Book: Reflections On Mountaineering

Alan V. Goldman’s Reflections on Mountaineering: Journey Through Life As Experiences In The Mountains considers every mountain climbing area in poetic form, from victories to moments of insignificance in the face of splendor. In the book, mountains are often addressed as “you,” and they swing between filling the role of an enemy and that of a lover. Their tops issue songs of a siren, drawing the narrator near, even as their presence proves to be a test, motioning the narrator to overcome it. Some mountains provoke the narrator’s “ardor” or occupy their territory “brazenly,” while other mountains are bolstered in “castle-like” ways, with “hidden crevasses or trap doors.” From an object of desire to antagonists, they provoke personification and almost obsessive contemplation throughout the book.

These contemplative poems dim the boundaries between nature and self, so the line evaporates sometimes. In “Fated Condition,” the narrator asks: “O Mountain edifice, are you part of me, / Or are you a self-contained entity that’s free / Of me–of the key to my understanding of my place.” Other times, the mountains challenge the “ego to surmount / Your heights and vainly claim them as my own,” disclosing that the man and the mountain are rivals, not the same entity. 

Allusions abound: to Bible verses, to the writings of William Blake and John Muir, to works of art including the Mona Lisa, to sayings like “might makes right,” and to familiar climbing brands like Petzl. The word choices are sophisticated if they border on lengthy, as with the line “Am I pusillanimous or prudent in my steps?”

Some verses utilize rhymes, while others do not. Still, others begin with rhyming couplets and transition to non-rhymed lines. Within single poems, such shifts risk having jarring effects, though they also serve to emphasize the unpredictable nature of mountain climbing. Other texts are prose poems, dictating, in precise language, what the experience of trekking to Kilimanjaro’s last water station is like.

Among the most compelling entries are those that document endurance: one is about surviving a sudden avalanche, and another is about building a snow hut to stay in the wilderness for three (3) days. In the latter instance, the poem’s similes have an explicate effect. The narrator documents what it is like to hunker down in weather that is fifteen degrees below Fahrenheit (even if one is wearing the most high-tech, moisture-wicking underwear – “it was so cold as to make one feel that one’s / Bones would snap if the angle of pressure were just right.”)

About The Author

Mr. Alan Goldman graduated from The Horace Mann School in 1975, Harvard College in 1979, and Harvard Law School in 1982.

In addition to Alan’s mountaineering adventures as his avid recreation, he practiced law for many years and is now retired.