Fallen Giants

A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes

Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver; With Maps and Peak Sketches by Dee Molenaar

View Inside Price: $27.50


February 23, 2010
592 pages, 7 x 10
65 photos; 15 maps
ISBN: 9780300164206
Paper

Also available in:
Cloth

The first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa teammate Tenzing Norgay is a familiar saga, but less well known are the tales of many other adventurers who also came to test their skills and courage against the world’s highest and most dangerous mountains. In this lively and generously illustrated book, historians Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver present the first comprehensive history of Himalayan mountaineering in fifty years. They offer detailed, original accounts of the most significant climbs since the 1890s, and they compellingly evoke the social and cultural worlds that gave rise to those expeditions.

The book recounts the adventures of such figures as Martin Conway, who led the first authentic Himalayan climbing expedition in 1892; Fanny Bullock Workman, the pioneer explorer of the Karakoram range; George Mallory, the romantic martyr of Mount Everest fame; Charlie Houston, who led American expeditions to K2 in the 1930s and 1950s; Ang Tharkay, the legendary Sherpa, and many others. Throughout, the authors discuss the effects of political and social change on the world of mountaineering, and they offer a penetrating analysis of a culture that once emphasized teamwork and fellowship among climbers, but now has been eclipsed by a scramble for individual fame and glory.

Maurice Isserman is James L. Ferguson Professor of History, Hamilton College. He lives in Clinton, NY. Stewart Weaver is professor of history, University of Rochester. He lives in Rochester, NY. Both authors are enthusiastic hikers and mountain climbers.

“In Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes, Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver share unforgettable stories of the history of the world’s highest peaks and the climbers who challenged their lofty summits. Their in-depth research gives us unique insights into previously unknown controversies, mysteries, and dramas. This thoughtful book, from a scholarly perspective, introduces us to the greatest peaks and personalities of mountaineering. The new information, intriguing details, insightful interpretations and dry humor make this a must read for armchair mountaineers as well as all who aspire to the heights.”—Arlene Blum, author of Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life 

Fallen Giants captures the spirit of Himalayan climbing. It is wonderfully written and will become an indispensable reference.”—Charles S. Houston, co-author of  K2:  The Savage Mountain

"This book fills a void in the history of mountaineering, and it will appeal not only to climbers but also historians. The authors have done a prodigious amount of research."—John T. Reilly, Mount Saint Mary College

“This will be the definitive history of mountaineering in the Himalaya, clear, free of jargon, and readable, and so thorough that it will not be worth anyone's time to repeat this effort."—Nick Clinch, leader, 1958 American Hidden Peak expedition, and past president, American Alpine Club

 

“Isserman and Weaver, both unassuming wanderers of high hills, have pulled off a great first ascent: a scholarly, grippingly readable history of Himalayan mountaineering that not only captures the tenuous essence of great successes and failures, but places the accounts of these climbs into historical context.”—Tom Hornbein, author of Everest: The West Ridge

“This would be a great first book to expose a reader to the amazing stories and sacrifices held within the body of mountaineering literature. Additionally, the historian, scholar, and collector will delight in the unique, in-depth look at the evolution of climbing, and its driving factors, in the Himalaya.”—Greg Glade, owner, Top of the World Books

“Our fascination with the grandest of earthly mountain ranges, the Himalaya, extends beyond the summits. The motives of the climbing expeditions, the challenges they faced, and how their experiences influenced the subsequent history of alpinism are all of great interest to both the armchair enthusiast and the seasoned Himalayan veteran. Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver capture the essence of Himalayan climbing in an authentic voice.”—Conrad Anker, alpinist

"This survey history establishes base camp for readers interested in the history of Himalayan climbing expeditions. Its strength lies in the way it puts each undertaking within the context of evolving styles of high-altitude mountaineering. . . . Including photography of personages and majestic scenery, Isserman and Weaver's history is well worth any library's consideration."—Booklist

"A comprehensive history of Himalayan climbing that covers 250 years of high-mountain action. The authors tease out the evolution of modern mountaineering, combining vivid storytelling with an eye for detail, accuracy and fairness. . . . Fallen Giants is the book of a lifetime . . . an awe-inspiring work of history and storytelling. . . . Isserman and Weaver brilliantly present the complete picture—the political context, the changing social dynamics, the emergence of modern climbing technique—without losing sight of the need to entertain. . . . Armchair mountaineers will give the book pride of place in their collections."—Bruce Barcott, New York Times Book Review

"Impressive. . . . Free of jargon and immensely thoughtful, the tome seems certain to be an essential resource for armchair climbers and seasoned alpinists alike."—Democrat and Chronicle

"It's difficult to find fault with this exceptionally well-written tome, a must-read for any fan of climbing literature."—Kathleen A. Ervin, Failure

"Heroism, death, and drama abound. . . . The author's thoroughness and range make this hefty volume nearly encyclopedic in scope; the details on the 'how' of climbing, the no-margin-for-error experience, and the bonus of Vittorio Sella's unmatched photographs make for a great book."—Foreward Magazine (Outstanding University Press Books 2008)

"[A] comprehensive account, a vacuum-filling history (the first of its kind in five-plus decades) and an enormously engaging addition to the climbing-lit canon. . . . Filled to bursting with lively accounts, prodigious research, and a welcome dash of dry humor, this essential volume makes clear that the saga of mountaineering is, as the authors say, 'more than the record of one damn peak after another.'"—The Atlantic Monthly 

 

“The first comprehensive account of Himalayan mountaineering in fifty years … Many mountaineers date their decision to take up the sport from an encounter with a good book on the subject. If this is the case, then Fallen Giants will surely swell their numbers.” - Good Book Guide

‘Isserman and Weaver brilliantly present the complete picture – the political context, the changing social dynamics, the emergence of modern climbing technique – without losing sight of the need to entertain…Armchair mountaineers will give the book pride of place in their collections.’ — London Review of Books

". . . an enormously engaging addition to the climbing-lit canon. . . .Filled to bursting with lively accounts, prodigious research, and a welcome dash of dry humor this essential volume makes clear that the saga of mountaineering is, as the authors say, 'more than the record of one damn peak after another.'"—The Atlantic Monthly

"Fallen Giants is an engaging book that struck me as being both familiar, yet managed to bring a fresh approach to its subject. . . . I recommend this book as a keeper that will undoubtedly be re-read and used for reference.  It is unlikely to be surpassed as a historical tome of its chosen topic any time soon."—Mike Nash, Cloudburst

‘Armchair mountaineers will give the book pride of place in their collections…keep it on a low shelf, where boys and girls can discover it and start dreaming of their own expeditions.’ — London Review of Books

"A deeply researched and comprehensive treatment of mountaineering in the Himalaya that is an engaging narrative and an illuminating analysis of larger themes."--Mark Harvey, Journal of American History

Winner of the 2008 Mountaineering History Prize, given by the Banff Mountain Book Festival.

Winner of the 2008 National Outdoor Book Award in the category of History/Biography.

Gold medal winner of the 2008 Book of the Year Award in the category of Adventure/Recreation, presented by ForeWord magazine.