ON THE EDGE OF EUROPE

$54.95

Quick Overview

The highest mountains in Europe are not Mont Blanc, Mont Blanc de Courmayeur and Monte Rosa, but Elbrus, Shkhara and Dykh-tau. The Caucasus stretches for 600 miles from the Black Sea to the Caspian, the natural boundary between Europe and Asia. A wild and remote range, its foothills fought over right up to the second world war, its fiefdoms now once more asserting their independence, the summits of the Caucasus are significantly higher than those in the Alps and offer a valuable staging post between Alpine and Himalayan experience.

The highest mountains in Europe are not Mont Blanc, Mont Blanc de Courmayeur and Monte Rosa, but Elbrus, Shkhara and Dykh-tau. The Caucasus stretches for 600 miles from the Black Sea to the Caspian, the natural boundary between Europe and Asia. A wild and remote range, its foothills fought over right up to the second world war, its fiefdoms now once more asserting their independence, the summits of the Caucasus are significantly higher than those in the Alps and offer a valuable staging post between Alpine and Himalayan experience.

It was to the Caucasus that the Alpine pioneers turned when the Golden Age of Alpine exploration drew to a close. Alpine Clubmen who had become blase about the increasingly over-populated Alps relished the exploration of a new territory as untamed and challenging as the Alps had been a century before. It offered them exciting ice and rock routes on long steep ridges and spurs without the complication of extreme altitude imposed by the Himalaya. Most of the major tops were climbed in the decade between 1886-1896 by such men as Freshfield, Dent, Donkin, Mummery and Cockin.

The start of the twentieth century came to be dominated in the Caucasus, as in the Alps, by the superior technique of the Germans and Austrians, men such as Schulze, Merkl and Bauer who achieved the great traverses for which the range is famous. Raeburn was there before the outbreak of the second world war and occasional western visits arranged during the cold war gave rare glimpses of unchaperoned Russians at play. But the highly organised Soviet climbing camps which so bemused John Hunt, Paul Nunn and Hamish MacInnes were where they forged lasting friendships with such men as Abalakov andGippenreiter, leaders of a new generation of Russian climbers.

Most accounts of Caucasus climbing have hitherto been buried away in club journals and magazines. On the Edge of Europe is the first book this century to collect together the best of the Caucasus writing in English and culminates in Mick Fowler's account of his remarkable new route on Ushba North with Victor Saunders in 1986. The longer self-contained extracts are a history of a century's climbing attitudes and fashions in themselves. But they are threaded in to a survey of climbing in the range which gives full recognition to the part played by other European climbers, notably the Germans and the Russians. The book ends with an invaluable reference section containing a year by year chronology of ascents and a comprehensive bibliography.

On the Edge of Europe combines the best of appetiser and reference work, indispensable for climbers planning a visit to the Caucasus and a roll call of great names for the armchair mountaineer.

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