O the mind, mind has mountains
- Gerard Manley Hopkins
From death in valleys preserve me, O Lord
Robert Macfarlane (p. 9)
Have men and women, throughout the long stretches of human history, taken to the mountains the way we do in our time and ethos? Have white crowned peaks, rock diadems and spear spires always drawn the curious, energetic, skilled and interested? Have mountains always been a place of allure, delight, charm and attraction? Or, is the passion for the mountains and out of doors hiking, climbing and glacier traverses more a product of the last few centuries? If this is the case, why is it? And, deeper yet, what are the reasons (complicated and diverse though they might be) that women and men take to the mountains, challenging rock rims and high perched peaks?
Mountains of the Mind attempts, in a variety of ways, to answer these questions. Such abiding questions, though, are not merely answered from the safe confines of the academic and library chair. Robert Macfarlane, to his credit, attempts to scale the peaks of such answers from a variety of routes. Macfarlane is Scottish, a climber and international in experience and interest. He has taken to many peaks, and his answers to the questions raised above emerge both from within himself and the multiple voices from those who have taken to the peaks in the past. Mountains of the Mind is as much about the internal ascents, hard places, difficult routes, worrisome crevasses, long trails, fears and insecurities that dog one and all as it is about the external and hard realities of real mountains and packed snow places.