The Mountaineering Culture Studies Group is made possible through the Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop programme at the Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan. It is also generously supported as a Special Interest Group by the university's Department of English.
27 October 2011 | 4211 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
17 November 2011 | 4211 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
8 December 2011 | 4211 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
8 February 2012 | 3222 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
8 March 2012 | 3154 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
20 September 2012 | 4207 Angell Hall | 5 p.m.
18 October 2012 | 4207 Angell Hall | 5 p.m.
29 November 2012 | 3154 Angell Hall | 6 p.m.
9 January 2013 | 4211 Angell Hall | 6 p.m.
31 January 2013 | 3154 Angell Hall | 5 p.m.
21 February 2013 | 3154 Angell Hall | 6 p.m.
14 March 2013 | 3154 Angell Hall | 5 p.m.
16 April 2013 | 3222 Angell Hall | 5 p.m.
25 April 2013 | 3241 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
18 March 2014 | 3154 Angell Hall | 5 p.m.
31 March 2014 | 3512 Haven Hall | 6 p.m.
24 April 2014 | 3222 Angell Hall | 5 p.m.
29 January 2017 | 3222 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
17 February 2017 | 3222 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
See below for more information. Use the links provided above at the bottom of each entry to navigate.
A discussion of Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna, translated into English by Nea Morin and Janet Adam Smith (London: Jonathan Cape, 1952), which documents the expedition that first reached the summit of an 8000-er. Other accounts — indeed, counterfoils to Herzog’s account — may be found in the works of Lionel Terray (Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna), Louis Lachenal (Carnets du vertige; probably, though correction is welcome, not yet translated into English), and Gaston Rebuffat (Starlight and Storm). David Roberts’s 2000 account, True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Summit of Annapurna, may also be worth perusal.
A discussion of the stakes and practices of high-altitude Himalayan mountaineering at the turn of the millennium and today, around Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster (London: Macmillan, 1997). We may, alongside Krakauer, want also to read Anatoli Boukreev (The Climb), Beck Weathers (Left for Dead). And/or watch the David Breashears-directed IMAX film Everest (1998).
12 January 2012 | 4211 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
‘My chief question here will have to do with the matter and manner of representation of an extreme pursuit. Why has photography been so deeply intermeshed with mountaineering since its youngest days, particularly in the highest ranges? Its curious ‘enabling’ power notwithstanding, does it continue to be used in the same way as it was about a hundred years back, or can we trace a substantive difference in its present-day affordances? To start with an example that many will be familiar with, my point of departure will be the early twentieth-century attempts on Everest. I shall strand my way through those first concatenations of climbing and camerawork to the climactic moment in 1953 when the summit of Everest was reached, and to the present day when photographs of comparable ventures appear not so much in the periodicals of the Royal Geographical Society as on the North Face blog. I should explore issues not only of commerce and journalism, but also the subject positions betrayed by the photographer and climber (two roles until very recently most intimately conflated). I shall anchor my exploration around Eric Shipton, Frank Smythe, Conrad Anker, and Jimmy Chin.’
27 January 2012 | 3222 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
'The many hill towns, cemeteries, churches, and mountaineering trails dotting the Himalayan landscape in India from East to West tell the story of British settlement during its empire. My paper will combine a history of some of these sites--Simla, Kasauli, Dharamshala--with traces of my own production as a postcolonial subject. How I have lived and imagined the Himalayas is shaped by echoes of empire and capitalist intrusions of contemporary India. Thus the real and imagined Himalayas produce a rich history.'
Jyotsna Singh researches and teaches early modern literature and culture, colonial history, travel writing, postcolonial theory, and gender and race studies, often exploring the intersections of these different fields. She is Professor of English at Michigan State University.
8 February 2012 | 3222 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
‘Up a mountain. Out at sea. Experiential learning programs including Semester at Sea and Michigan’s own Camp Davis and New England Literature Program offer humanities instruction ?in the field? — a phrase we more readily associate with the sciences. How is English taught under field conditions, and what can these experiences bring back to our teaching here at the University?’
This meeting will use as launching ground the Isserman and Stewart authored Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes (Yale University Press, 2008).
29 March 2012 | Hatcher 100 | 4 p.m.
This meeting will use as starting point Kapadia’s Siachen Glacier: The Battle of Roses (Rupa, 2010).
You are invited to come see what the MCSG is and does, partake of good food and great conversation, meet other people thinking mountains, make suggestions about what you would like the MCSG to do this year, find out about some of the plans already underway (book readings, chapter/article workshops, discussion panels, visits by external speakers approached or confirmed), and find out what use the MCSG can be to your own creative, academic, or exploratory work. We look forward to seeing many of you there.
The following articles (list compiled by Bo White) should give us a launching pad into the discussion:
Overview of the compressor route controversy:
The Origins of the Controversy:
Statement from the Climbers involved:
Perspectives from the heavy-weights:
8 November 2012 | 3222 Angell Hall | 5 p.m.
Gregory Crouch graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he studied military history. He completed US Army Airborne and Ranger schools and led an infantry platoon in Panama, earning the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He left the Army to pursue other interests, most notably in mountaineering. He developed an obsession with the storm-swept peaks of Patagonia, and has made seven expeditions there. Along the way he became a writer, and his work has appeared in The Atlantic, National Geographic, Outside, American History, Climbing, and Rock & Ice. His book Enduring Patagonia (New York: Random House, 2001) was chosen for the Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” program. China’s Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight was published by Bantam in March 2012.
Beginning with a brief slideshow to acquaint us with the wild, windswept and wonderful landscape that is the subject of his lecture, Crouch will talk about the personal experience and inspiration behind the writing of Enduring Patagonia. This will be his point of departure for an exploration of the ways in which the experience of mountaineering, and the literature that uses it for a subject, fit into, generate, influence, and profoundly impact each other.
‘The present day sport of climbing can trace its origins in the UK back to Alpine mountaineering in the late 19th century. It has developed in relation to three different kinds of terrain, each involving a different activity: mountains and mountaineering in snow and ice; British hills and rock climbing; British outcrops and short hard technical climbing. These different terrains have different locations, which partly determined the social formation of the sport that began as an upper (middle) class activity (19thcentury) and subsequently 'trickled down' the social ladder to the bourgeoisie (early 20th century) and the working class (mid 20th century). I will offer an informal sketch of the historical formation of today's global sport as it developed in one particular part of the world.’
Gerald (Paddy) Scannell is Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. Before coming to the US, he worked for many years at the University of Westminster (London) where he and his colleagues established, in 1975, the first undergraduate degree program in Media Studies in the UK. He is a founding editor of Media, Culture and Society, which began publication in 1979 and is now issued six times yearly. He is the author, with David Cardiff, of A Social History of British Broadcasting, 1922-1939. He is now working on a trilogy on media and communication. Meanwhile, he continues to think about the way in which class operates within an activity he used to avidly partake in: climbing.
Our first meeting for the Winter 2013 term will be a chance for MCSG members to exchange news and stories over pizza and films. Several of us made it to the visually marvellous Reel Rock 7 in November 2012, and discovered that we had not watched the films from Reel Rock 2011 but would like to. Here they are! Bring friends and anecdotes and learn about what the rest of term has in store.
Richard Tucker will discuss aspects of the cultural and economic settings of mountaineering in northwestern India. Between 1993 and 2008 he lived part of each year above the Tibetan exile home, Dharamsala, in India's state of Himachal Pradesh, doing research on environmental change in the region and working with local environmental action groups. Himachal, the region southeast of Kashmir and Ladakh, has high Himalayan ranges rolling to the borderlands of western Tibet, and into the headwaters region of the Indus and Ganges rivers. Though a little lower than the highest ranges of Nepal or the Hindu Kush, many of these peaks are very remote; some are even now unclimbed. The region draws climbers, as well as many high-country trekkers, but its infrastructure and facilities for them are less intensive than in Nepal. Yet for some of the hill towns, trekkers and climbers have become crucial to local economies and central to their expanding consumer-cosmopolitan cultures. The evening's presentation will include photographs of the region's landscapes and people, as well as its accelerating environmental stresses.
Richard Tucker teaches at the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. He teaches courses on world environmental history and the world history of environmental impacts of wars and militarization. He also continues to do research and writing on the history of American capital investment in tropical and subtropical natural resources. As an avid traveller, trekker, and erstwhile homeowner in Dharamkot at the foothills of the Dhauladhar mountains in the Indian Himalaya, his approach to thinking about sustainability in fragile mountain environments is necessarily both engaged and pragmatic.
Pem Dorjee Sherpa was born in 1982 and grew up in a small, remote village called Chyangba south of Everest. He started mountaineering when he was 19. Pem has climbed Everest twice, the second time with his girlfriend Moni Mulepati. On the summit, they followed through on a plan they had heretofore kept secret from everyone, and exchanged their wedding vows at 29,035 feet. They also hoisted the flag of Rotary International in honour of its centennial year. Pem came to the US in 2008, and since then has hiked the 3,100-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail between Mexico and Canada. He now lives with his wife Moni and daughter Pelzom in Michigan, an owner of a local fair-trade store many of us have walked by, perhaps explored: The Himalayan Bazaar on Main Street in Ann Arbor.
In his presentation and slideshow, Pem Dorjee Sherpa will address the peculiar history of the interrelatedness of the ethnic group of the Sherpas and the mountain most of us know by the name of Everest. From an inalienably native perspective, he will consider the Sherpa community's role in the development of mountaineering in the Nepal Everest region, Everest's peculiar claims and demands on the community's population and culture, and the singular inheritance, both of change and continuity, that the Sherpa people carry as a result of this connection.
In the summer of 2011 Mark Richey led a small team of six climbers into a remote region of India’s Eastern Karakoram to attempt the first ascent of what was then the second highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Saser Kangri II, at 7518 metres. It was important to reach the summit, but just as important was reaching it in pure alpine style: with no fixed ropes, no fixed camps, and no support on the climb. In addition to the ascent of SKII, the team explored on skis the glaciers and mountains surrounding SKII and made four other significant first ascents of 6000-metre peaks. The story of the expedition speaks to several fascinating issues and questions facing climbers today. The history of SKII—and why a mountain so high remained unclimbed for so long—is both fascinating and complex. SKII lies very near the Indian LOC (Line of Control), a region in military conflict for nearly four decades. What is involved in gaining a permit to enter such a geopolitical or ‘manmade’ wilderness, and what are the logistics of climbing there? Next, as both Mark and his partner Steve Swenson are in their mid to late fifties, it is a question worth asking until what age it is reasonable—and safe—to attempt this style of demanding high-altitude climbing. Finally, while both Mark and Steve have made dozens of expeditions to the Himalaya and Karakoram, this one was a little different for them in including both men and women. What are the actual and potential dynamics, challenges, and advantages to a multi-gender, multi-generation Himalayan expedition today? These questions and others will be explored in Mark’s lecture: ‘Saser Kangri II: The First Ascent’. In conclusion, Mark will screen a short film about the SKII climb, The Old Breed.
Mark Richey began climbing in 1973 at age 15 in the Quincy Quarries of Massachusetts. Adept at all forms of climbing, he has made over 25 expeditions to the greater ranges throughout the world with a focus towards technical alpine style ascents and exploratory climbing. The highlights include the Nose on El Cap at age 16, the North Face of the Eiger in 12 hours in 1981, the first ascent of the East face of Cayesh in 1984, Cerro Torre in 1987, Everest in 1991, the East ridge of Shivling in 1996, an alpine style ascent of Latok II in 2006, and most recently, the first ascent of Saser Kangri II in the Indian Karakoram. Mark lives in Newbury, Massachusetts with his wife Teresa. Together they own and operate an Architectural woodworking business they founded in 1982.
Drawing on the experience of an alpine career that has spanned four decades, climber Mark Wilford will address aspects of the curious temperament that such climbing requires. With the example of his solo ascent of the Eiger North Face in Switzerland, he will discuss his focus on routes that employ technical rock and ice climbing. Talking about a new route on Nameless Tower (aka Trango Tower) in the Pakistan Karakoram, he will bring up the peculiar commitment and persistence such essays require—sometimes in the form of retreating and coming back another day. Finally, with a colourful account of the famously fantastic first ascent (and descent) of Yamandaka in the Indian Karakoram, he will elaborate on the unexpected kinds of resourcefulness such terrain asks.
Mark Wilford is a native of Colorado. Over the last forty years, he has embraced all genres of climbing from ice, rock, and big wall, to exploratory expeditions and bouldering. He has climbed on all seven continents, and scores of countries. Notable ascents have been the first American solo of the Eiger North Face and a solo of the Diamond on Long's Peak in winter, in addition to new routes in Alaska, India, Pakistan, Greenland, and Ethiopia, among others. He has retained a focus on technical climbing but employs a staunchly traditional style within it.
25 April 2013 | 3241 Angell Hall | 4 p.m.
7 November 2013 | 0220 South Hall | 6 p.m.
Jim Donini's international alpine climbing career has spanned five decades and continues today. After a three-year stint in the US Army Special Forces, Jim discovered the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains in the mid 60’s and climbing followed soon after. An apprenticeship in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons was followed by an intensive six years in Yosemite Valley. His first ascents in Patagonia (several with Greg Crouch, another guest of the MCSG) went hand in hand with establishing new routes in the Alaska Range. A memorable 26-day odyssey on the North Ridge of Latok 1 (in the Himalaya) with Jeff Lowe, George Lowe, and Michael Kennedy in 1978 has attained almost mythical status in the mountaineering community. Jim’s career has also included trips to Mt Kenya, Peru, Antarctica, and a Venezuelan jungle tower. In 2011 he led the first Climbers’ Exchange between the American Alpine Club and the Alpine Club of Iran. With Bo White (a Michigan Law student), that same summer he climbed a new alpine rock route in Tajikistan and returned there this summer to participate in a climbing skills instruction project. In October 2013 he established an alpine rock route on a 17,000-foot peak in the Chanping Valley of Sichuan, China. Jim lives with his wife Angela in Ouray, Colorado, high up in the San Juan Range. He has just concluded three years as President of the American Alpine Club and enjoys mentoring younger climbers, who in turn testify to Jim's enormous and infectious enthusiasm.
Jim's lecture will address the different kinds of climbing his long alpine career has seen, been influenced by, and in turn influenced. Brilliantly poised to comment on how different parts of the world understand alpine climbing, he will also reflect on the ethics and attitudes that continue to mould cutting-edge mountaineering today. Relating mountaineering to other pursuits of life, Jim will also talk about two things he holds to be of critical value to his own long and illustrious career: continuing motivation, and the importance of making, and keeping, good partnerships.
6 December 2013 | 0220 South Hall | 6:30 p.m.
Bo White (whom we know at the MCSG) was trying to be a good graduate student in 2008-2009 and found himself conducting research for his Master's degree in Tajikistan. Little did he know he would become somewhat obsessed with this tiny landlocked country. The climber in Bo rejoiced when a Fulbright took him back to the country in 2010 for a year. As a Fulbrighter, Bo worked with a small group of eco-tourism students and aspiring mountain guides at the University of Central Asia, helping them develop mountain guide skills and strategies and generally supporting their efforts to promote eco-tourism in Tajikistan. Bo continues to return to Tajikistan to help promote climbing in the country through the Pamir Alpine Club. Currently, Bo and his wife Molly live in Ann Arbor where he studies at UM Law School and she is a Post-doc at UM Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Anindya Mukherjee ‘Raja’ is an Indian alpinist who works as a mountaineering guide and trek leader in the Indian Himalaya. In the last twelve years he has participated in or led more than thirty expeditions to such technical peaks as Shivling (6,543 m), Satopanth (7,075 m), Parvati Parvat (6,257 m), Kamet (7,756 m), Trisul (7,120 m), and Manirang (6,593 m). In December 2011, he made the first documented ascent of Zemu Gap (in Sikkim, India) from the South, thus making his way through one of the last unsolved problems on the eastern flanks of the Kanchenjunga range. The same year he charted a new route to enter the fabled Nanda Devi Sanctuary. In 2013, he led a lightweight semi alpine style attempt on Nanda Devi East that came very close to reaching its summit. In recognition of his inventive and exploratory style, he was awarded the first Jagdish Nanavati Award for Excellence in Mountaineering by the Himalayan Club last year.
Of all the great Himalayan explorers of the last century, the British explorer, alpine mountaineer, and writer H.W.Tilman most captivates Anindya's imagination. In 2011, this admiration came to a head and a series of inspired journeys followed. In March 2011, Anindya retraced Tilman’s 1936 trails in reverse, through the ‘trackless vale of tears’ in North Sikkim. This journey, up the gorges of the mighty Talung River, acted as a prelude to the first documented ascent of Zemu Gap from the South in December that year. In August-September 2011, along with a few friends, he charted a new route on the formidable western walls of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. This discovery of a new pass that can act as an alternative to the legendary Shipton-and-Tilman Rishi gorge route into the sanctum sanctorum of Nanda Devi only further encouraged Anindya. In June 2012, Tilmanesque, he rode his bicycle from Nanyuki, Kenya, to Walvis Bay, Namibia; a journey of over 4,500 kilometres and across 5 countries. And one fine morning, while approaching the border of Zambia from Malawi, he decided to return to Nanda Devi--this time to climb the mountain. What followed in May 2013 is a lightweight semi-alpine style attempt on the east summit of Nanda Devi. ‘Til-Mannered’ is an illustrated talk on this three-year pilgrimage to the Tilman spirit.
Of course, the journey continues. On 19 March 2014, there will be a lunch and slideshow for those interested to discuss with Anindya his latest and upcoming mountaineering projects.
This presentation will reflect on the impacts of converting mountaineering from a hobby to a profession. Expedition guiding at high and low altitudes requires both a specific education and a vocational skill-set that is unique to the field. The transition that takes place when moving from experiencing mountaineering for its inherent values to experiencing mountaineering as a profession requires a significant change in thought and decision-making strategies. Today's discussion will take us from the guiding life on North America's biggest mountains--Mt Baker, Mt Rainier, Denali--to outdoor education at the school and college level.
Mat Erpelding is an accomplished outdoor educator, high-altitude climbing guide, and owns two small businesses--Saga Leadership Associates and Idaho Mountain Guides. He is a past president of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and in 2010 he was awarded the Wilderness Education Association’s Instructor of the Year Award for bringing innovative and substantial curriculum improvements to the organization. In 2012, Mat was elected to serve in the Idaho House of Representatives from downtown Boise where he is appointed to the Revenue & Taxation, Resources & Conservation, and Agricultural Committees.
To some of the pioneers of Western conservation movements, there continues to be a divide between, on the one hand, protecting some of our most gorgeous backcountry lands as pure wilderness, and on the other, allowing access to such lands in an effort to bring human beings into participatory contact with what we stand to lose if we fail to protect them. Brady Robinson, as Executive Director of the Access Fund, heads the national advocacy movement in the US that aims to keep the country's public lands both open and conserved. In the vision of the Fund, the future of these beautiful lands are to be secured by the active recreation and engagement of outdoor enthusiasts who will responsibly enjoy them. In his lecture at the MCSG, Brady will talk about the making and running of the Access Fund, address its long-term conservation policies, think aloud possible avenues for taking its mission further, and invite questions from the academy and the outdoor community to discuss pragmatic means towards protection of some of our most vital natural resources and our continued access to them.
Brady Robinson is the Executive Director of the Access Fund, a national advocacy organization that keeps US climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment, and the Chairperson of Outdoor Alliance, an organisation that protects and promotes human-powered outdoor recreation experience by uniting the voices of thousands of paddlers, mountain bikers, climbers and skiers to conserve America’s public lands. He is also a mountaineer who has travelled and climbed in many parts of the world for the better part of the the last three decades, and believes passionately in sustained environmental stewardship. Brady shares his life with his wife Lucia and their daughters Tessa and Cora.
|Last updated September 20, 2016.|