Books have always been a source of inspiration, information and even comfort for travellers but until now you could only pack as many books as you could comfortably carry. Luckily for us, e-readers present the perfect solution to this age-old problem and now the traveller’s only constraint is the number of decent ebooks on the market. In this blog series, Cascada scours the internet so you don’t have to, picking out and reviewing the best Patagonia-related ebooks for your trip, to help you choose which to download and which to dismiss. You won’t find any guidebook reviews here, this is a space for novels, travelogues, memoirs… anything that will get you in the mood for your journey to Patagonia.
So far in this series on ebooks relating to Patagonia, we’ve reviewed Simon Worrall’s memoir The River of Desire, The Tourist Trail by John Yunker, Three Journeys to Patagonia by Nick Green, The Condor’s Feather by Margaret Muir and Patagonia – A Cultural History by Chris Moss. This time, we get to grips with the timeless allure of Patagonia’s mountains, and the men who dedicate their lives to climbing them, in Enduring Patagonia by Gregory Crouch.
Patagonia is a strange and terrifying place, a vast tract of land shared by Argentina and Chile where the violent weather spawned over the southern Pacific charges through the Andes with gale-force winds, roaring clouds, and stinging snow. Squarely athwart the latitudes known to sailors as the roaring forties and furious fifties, Patagonia is a land trapped between angry torrents of sea and sky, a place that has fascinated explorers and writers for centuries. Magellan discovered the strait that bears his name during the first circumnavigation. Charles Darwin traveled Patagonia’s windy steppes and explored the fjords of Tierra del Fuego during the voyage of the Beagle. From the novel perspective of the cockpit, Antoine de Saint-Exupry immortalized the Andes in Wind, Sand, and Stars, and a half century later, Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia earned a permanent place among the great works of travel literature. Yet even today, the Patagonian Andes remain mysterious and remote, a place where horrible storms and ruthless landscapes discourage all but the most devoted pilgrims from paying tribute to the daunting and dangerous peaks.
Right from the off, Gregory Crouch plunges the reader into the middle of one of his Patagonia mountain adventures. The tense and poetic descriptions are gripping enough to hold the attention of even readers with no climbing knowledge as the universal themes of success and failure are accessible to all. Crouch’s genuine elation on summiting his first Patagonia mountain, and each successive achievement, gushes from the pages and wraps the reader in the glow of his passion for the sport. It’s also noteworthy that although Crouch describes various Patagonia climbs – which could risk blending into one mass of rock, ice and pain for anyone unfamiliar with the region – he manages to keep each mountain and each climb distinct and intriguing in its own way.
Alongside his own stories of summit successes and struggles, Crouch provides a neat history of other famous Patagonia ascents and the personalities that are synonymous with climbing in this part of the world. Anyone with an already active interest in climbing in Patagonia will be familiar with the controversy surrounding the Maestri/Egger ascent of Argentina’s iconic Cerro Torre, but for non-initiates it’s a great introduction to the pride and passions that still fly around in the fierce Patagonian winds.
The mountain adventures of Crouch and others are cut with snippets of life back home, with all of the drudgery, menial jobs and pressures that come with it. At these moments, Crouch is prone to taking moments aside to contemplate the enduring appeal of climbing in Patagonia, which he describes as the “most extraordinary case of unrequited love”. It’s interesting to see how he swings from pride to humility and still struggles to define exactly what it is that keeps bringing him back to the punishing peaks at the bottom of the world. In the end, it remains undefined, but is perhaps all the better for it.
Now for a final word on the ebook format. As good as this read is, it does feel at times as if the Kindle ebook conversion was just a little bit lazy. The few typos can be forgiven, but the section of photographs at the back of the book is all but wasted on the ebook reader. They’re so grainy and dark on the Kindle screen that it might well have been better to leave them out of this edition altogether, rather than tease the reader with a substandard hint at what they could have had if they had bought the printed edition.
The glossary also comes up short in this ebook edition. It’s an ongoing e-reader bugbear that nobody has quite worked out an easy and standard way to allow readers to flick back and forth to the glossary using an e-reader, in the same was as you would when using a book. And if you’re not a climbing buff, you’ll really need the glossary to help out with some of the climbing terminology. Your best bet for the moment is to head to the back of the ebook first, cram as much vocabulary as you can and hope you can remember enough to carry you through the rest of the book!
Ebook niggles aside, however, this is a thrilling read that will give you a real feel for the Patagonia peaks. Take it with you and read it when you’re on the ground listening to the wind howl about your tent!
Read Enduring Patagonia if…
- You enjoyed ‘Touching the Void’.
- You’re heading off to hike the Torres del Paine Circuit.
- You know what it’s like to see all four seasons in a day.
Have you read Enduring Patagonia by Gregory Crouch? What did you think? Do you have a suggestion of an ebook for Cascada to review? Share your thoughts below!
Next time, Cascada reviews The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. Look out for the next blog in this series, coming soon!