Alpine Americas – Book Review

North to Alaska the land rises gently from the Arctic Ocean and an ice pack that extends over the pole and beyond. South of Patagonia, it plunges into the Drake Passage at Cape Horn. Six hundred miles away is Antarctica. Start at one of these ends of the earth – if only in your mind – and aim for the other along a ten thousand mile line of mountains. You’ll meet in your travels along the ridge all kinds of landscapes, all kinds of animals. You’ll learn the temperaments of all kinds of weather. You’ll meet people so different – and so much alike. Visit the high places, and the rest of the world will be less of a mystery. -From Alpine Americas-

Olaf and Gitta Soot spent 40 years collecting photos of mountains, villages and the people and animals who inhabited them. Their adventures led them to the Western ranges of the Americas and an idea began to formulate – to create a book which celebrated the long and beautiful line of mountain ranges which run from the north to the south poles. They collaborated with Don Mellor (who they had worked with previously when they published Adirondacks Alive, a photo-essay collection of the Adirondacks of New York State) to piece together the jaw-dropping and beautifully written Alpine Americas.

Alpine Americas is a gorgeous “coffee table book” which examines the 10,000 miles of peaks from the Arctic to Patagonia. It is organized by chapters which look at each mountain grouping – beginning with the far North mountains of the Brooks Range along the Northern rim of Alaska, and ending with the ragged Patagonian ranges and fjords. Each chapter describes the unique weather, people and animals of the region and is filled with breathtaking photographs. It is a feast for the eyes.

Those who love the isolation and beauty of the mountains, and specifically those who climb them, will find themselves enthralled by Mellor’s captivating prose and amazed at how the lens of Soot’s camera has captured the majesty of the west’s highest places.

For the real threads that hold this wondrous earth together are those of her own design – the currents of the sea, the jet stream, the great rivers. The real threads are the physical realities that we cannot change but to which we can adjust. And must.  The real threads include the squiggly line of mountain peaks that defines the edge of two continents and in so many ways, defines those who explore. -From Alpine Americas-

Alpine Americas is recommended for arm-chair explorers, as well as those who have actually been there. My thanks to Lisa Roe, online publicist, who sent me this gorgeous book.

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  1. This sounds lovely — I am such a “mountain person.” When I lived in Denver, every day off was spent up in the Rocky Mountains…gorgeous. I’ll keep my eyes open for this book!

    • Wendy on November 3, 2008 at 08:39

    Michele: I have never been in the Rockies – but have always wanted to go there. If you are a mountain person, you will love this book.

    • Jeane on November 3, 2008 at 13:50

    It sounds like a beautiful book. I grew up near Mount Rainier, and have family members who enjoy mountains (one sister is a climber). Affinity for books like this.

    • Wendy on November 6, 2008 at 08:02

    Jeane: Oh, you’d probably like this is beautifully organized and the photographs are wonderful.

  2. Great review, Wendy!! I like the quotes you chose. I was stunned that the writing was every bit as beautiful as the photos.

    • Wendy on January 19, 2009 at 19:19

    Bookfool: I agree – the writing was beautiful. I still have the book sitting on my coffee table and find myself picking it up from time to time to read a paragraph or gaze at the photos.

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