Starting with his climb of Japan’s Mount Fuji, a narrative of each climb (illustrated with Wheeler’s own lovely photos) ties into one of the philosophical concepts he introduces, such as awe, a sublime appreciation of beauty that he feels surveying the view from Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. Wheeler is especially interested in mountains that are considered to be sacred spaces and maintains a strong awareness of the mystical experience that can accompany the physical experience of climbing. He doesn’t preach; rather, this is an undogmatic exploration of ideas that have drawn and driven him for over 80 years.
The history of human consciousness and motivation is a huge topic, but Wheeler successfully breaks down these complex ideas with clear summaries, sometimes slightly oversimplifying. If his mountain-climbing memories ramble a bit at times, his writing style is so pleasant and inviting that it doesn’t matter much, and readers here for the joy and musings can easily skip the dry appendices of psychology research. The alternation between Wheeler’s personal experiences and his philosophical theories keeps the book lively and readable. This book is a conversation, both with himself and the reader, and through a willingness to reach out and ask questions he is able to come to a few tentative conclusions while bringing the reader on a purely delightful journey.
Takeaway: Readers interested in both physicality and philosophy will savor Wheeler’s blend of climbing memoir and quest for the meaning of life.
Great for fans of Climbing: Philosophy for Everyone, edited by Stephen E. Schmid; John Kaag’s Hiking with Nietzsche: Becoming Who You Are.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B