“Throughout his life, he had never lost his quenchless, almost childlike sense of wonder about the world.” Thus writes David Roberts, a well-known if now retired mountain climber, about his mentor (and, one suspects, his idol) Bradford Washington. The subtitle calls Washburn “America’s Greatest Mountaineer,” and he lived to be nearly 97 years old.
This biography began as a eulogy that Roberts was asked to give at the memorial service for Washburn, and it rings out with the respect that the author had for the man who came to be his friend. It is a book that fans of mountaineering will want to add to their libraries; although it lacks the nail-biting suspense of The Climb by the late Anatoli Boukreev or the cool addictive style of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. This is more of a factual telling of Washington’s pioneering climbing career which began at age 11. There are, of course, tales of tragedy and heroism included but they are told in a calm and understated voice.
The Last of His Kind does include a few secret gems for the reader to discover, such as the time that Washburn climbed with Robert Kennedy.
William Morrow, $25.99, 334 pages
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.