One reason I enjoy books on mountaineering is that these athletes do incredible things on high peaks that I could never even dream of doing. Kilian Jornet does that and so much more, and his memoir, while a bit depressing at times, makes for a great read for readers like me. Here is my review of “Above the Clouds.”
“Above the Clouds: How I Carved My Own Path to the Top of the World” by Kilian Jornet
Mountaineering, running, memoir
August 25, 2020
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Kilian Jornet is an athletic marvel. He climbs the tallest mountains; he runs races at various distances on these mountains as well as more level ground and he puts himself through punishing training sessions. He hadn’t yet conquered the ultimate challenge for any climber: reaching the peak of Mount Everest. His journey to do so is told in his own words and manner in this book.
One aspect of the book that may turn off some readers is that there is not a good flow or sequence in the book – the stories of the Everest expeditions (there was more than one) are in order, but the other tales and reflections Jornet shares are random and seem to be written on whatever emotion he was feeling at the time he was sitting in front of his keyboard. While that does make it a little more challenging to read in as few settings as possible, I find them brutally honest. That is a good trait to have, as I find that type of writing hard to put down, especially in some of his darker times when he wonders if all his training and work is worth the effort.
But that training DOES produce results – if you don’t know about the awards he has won, he does share some of them, but doesn’t come across as arrogant. He shares some more tender moments, such as the three people whom he believes were the most important to help him become the climber that he has become (another dark moment comes here when he describes how one of them became another climbing victim). His partner Emilie is a climber as well and the story of when they were scaling Everest together and her fall is both terrifying and riveting.
While these stories can be considered downers, there are plenty of triumphs and great prose about climbing as well. A reader just has to take them in carefully and enjoy them as they come in the book. This will never be confused for a work of great writing, but it is an interesting look at the duel sports of mountaineering and running (much more of the former) that is worth the time to read.
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