From the 1920s to the 1950s, the race was on in Europe to score first ascents of the most formidable routes in the Alps and Dolomites. Buoyed by the advent of artificial climbing techniques (primarily the use of pitons), teams from France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Poland scaled the north faces of the Eiger, the Drus, the Matterhorn, the Grandes Jorasses and other hallowed peaks, often pooling resources to obtain previously unimaginable success (and tragedy), while the world below was ravaged by two brutal world wars. Noted French climbing guide Gaston Rébuffat lived at the centre of this crucial era in mountaineering history. Starlight and Storm
, first published in French in 1954 as Etoiles et Tempetes
, is his personal account of a rugged and glorious time before Gore-Tex, when men, soaked and chilled to the bone, sang to keep each other from falling asleep (forever) during exposed bivouacs in sub-zero snowstorms. Rébuffat's love of the climber's life is evident with each turn of the page. Where contemporary authors such as Jon Krakauer
, who provides this reissue's foreword, describe climbing in terms of nightmares and inner struggles, Rébuffat moves from one harrowing ascent to the next with uncommon gaiety and charm. "We have the instinct for it, the love of rocks and the necessary skill," he writes of time spent on the Drus, "so that we can climb without being worried by technical problems. Thus the whole climb was pure joy, for, while superficially watching over the actual ascent, the spirit had leisure to wander happily." The mysterious joy and lure of traversing Earth's high places are expressed with a boyish innocence lost on much of today's climbing culture, making Starlight and Storm
an enjoyable read, probably unlike any mountaineering journal you have ever encountered. --Kristopher Kaiyala
About the Author
Gaston Rébuffat was born on May 7, 1921, in Marseilles, France. He was a recipient of France's prestigious Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. He died in Paris on May 31, 1985. Jon Krakauer is the author of Into Thin Air, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Into the Wild. His work has appeared in many magazines, including Outside, Smithsonian, and National Geographic. He chose the books in the Modern Library Exploration series for their literary merit and historical significance--and because he found them such a pleasure to read.