I loved this segment, mostly because it sparked many trains of thought.
- Hannibal crossing the Alps with his elephants reminded me of the great but somewhat forgotten children’s book I Marched with Hannibal by Hans Baumann (1961). The depiction of the trek through the mountains is very vivid.
- It was great to learn about Mount Kailash being too sacred to climb; the tension between the European desire to “conquer” a mountain “because it’s there” and the reverence of the various religions that find meaning in leaving it untouched is fascinating.
- Wilderness as a place of terror reminds me of the origin of the word “panic” - from the fear inspired by the voice of Pan, the god of the wild woods and lonely places. Interesting how the Wordsworth quoted in the video, and the Shelley poem “Mont Blanc” referenced, both focus on the sounds of the mountains.
- Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra is a wonderful book in many ways, and the section quoted captures some of the tremendous delight and joy in the wilderness that he expresses. But it’s also a very misanthropic book, downright racist about the indigenous populations, and that’s a general aspect of the myth of the frontier that could be drawn out a bit more. Especially in the US, the early conservation movement saw wilderness as “pristine”/”virgin”/untouched by humans, and the native inhabitants as almost a contaminant - at least unable to appreciate and treasure the wilds the way white Europeans supposedly did. And in parallel, the frontier existed as a depopulated landscape to be settled because of the diseases brought over in the Columbian Exchange. (Side note - the two Charles Mann books on that topic, 1491 and 1493, are fantastic).
- The health benefits of mountains reminded me of another favorite children’s book, Heidi by Johanna Spyri (1881), where mountain air (and goat’s milk) cure the invalid Clara and allow her to walk again.
- Finally, I was surprised to see an old favorite included on the shelf of climbing/mountain literature - Beyond the Black Stump by Nevil Shute. I don’t remember anything about climbing in it. Wikipedia identifies the setting as the Ophthalmia Range in Australia, but mountains, if any, are a minor backdrop to the story of a culture/moral clash between an Australian woman and her American fiance. Now I want to re-read it!