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The White Death

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About the Author

McKay Jenkins has backpacked, paddled, bicycled, and skied in wilderness all over the world. He has written for Outside, Outdoor Explorer, and Orion, among many other publications. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia and a Ph.D. in English from Princeton. A former staff writer for The Atlanta Constitution, he currently teaches literature and nonfiction writing at the University of Delaware. Jenkins lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two dogs. From the Hardcover edition.


Jenkins, a former staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writing teacher, and contributor to Outside and other magazines, does a wonderful job relating this disaster tale of five young mountaineers buried by an avalanche while attempting a dangerous winter ascent in Glacier National Park in 1969. Meticulously researched, his account is interspersed with facts and fables about mountains, snow, and the causes of avalanches; there is also a history of humanity's encounters with this natural force from Hannibal until today. Jenkins presents harrowing survivors' tales and a sobering appraisal of the current trend toward more avalanches. Using the story of five families who lost their sons at a time when mountaineering was more a way of life than sport, Jenkins provides a fascinating store of scientific information. Highly recommended for all outdoor adventure collections, this will appeal to readers who enjoyed Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (LJ 4/1/97) and includes a good, basic bibliography that provides a starting point for academic snow and avalanche research.--Tim J. Markus, Evergreen State Coll Lib., Olympia, WA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

There's often a fine line between heroism and foolhardiness, as in the deaths in 1969 of five young Montana climbers (ages 18 to 22) who, against the advice of professional rangers, made a winter attempt on treacherous Mt. Cleveland in Montana's Glacier National Park and succumbed to an avalanche. In an engrossing tour de force, Jenkins, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer, re-creates this tragedy and also seamlessly interweaves a wealth of avalanche lore, science and history. Jenkins, writing in crisp, clean prose, fashions a deeply personal tale out of their adventure. One of the five, Jerry Kanzler, an accomplished climber, was still recovering emotionally from his father's 1967 suicide; a certain bravado and desire to prove his manhood seems to have motivated him as well as his companions. Jerry's brother Jim, a ski instructor, risked his life trying to find and save the missing five, but it would take rescuers six months to locate the bodies. In 1976, to honor his brother, Jim Kanzler and two friends became the first climbers ever to scale Mt. Cleveland's steeply vertical north face. Jenkins, who teaches writing at the University of Delaware, probes the metaphysical roots of mountaineering, spins tales of avalanches from Peru to New Zealand and covers the latest advances in avalanche science. He also explores avalanches in history, from Hannibal's devastating loss of men and horses in the French Alps to the WWII heroism of U.S. Alpine ski troops, who helped Allied forces capture German strongholds in the Italian Apennines. Photos. Agent, Neil Olson, Donadio & Olson. Author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Jenkins is editor of the forthcoming The Peter Matthiessen Reader (Vintage). Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"[E]loquently written.... Snow has rarely been so menacing as in this book."-The Washington Post Book World

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