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When In Doubt, Go Higher: Mountain Gazette Anthology

 When In Doubt, Go Higher: Mountain Gazette Anthology

by Kelly Bates

March 03, 2003

Since 1972, Mountain Gazette magazine has been delighting, surprising, and offending readers with great essays, flippant features, outrageous opinion, and memorable short fiction on almost any subject even remotely connected with mountains. Mountain Gazette is partly literate and unashamedly dirt-bag, an eclectic mix thats's littered with wit and invention but sometimes as dark and cold as death on a high-altitude glacier.

You won't love everything in this eclectic anthology, but we know that one or two of these pieces will stay with you for a long while. Pieces about climbing, backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, river-running, Pieces about drinking, road tripping, sex (several permutations), fly fishing, naked bike riding. Pieces about gear shops, saunas, trucks, the simple life, the complicated life, life and death.

Some of the writers you've heard of--like Charles Bowden (Black Orchid) and John Nichols (Milagro Beanfield War). Others you've not heard of because they published one outstanding piece in Mountain Gazette and then vanished, probably into some remote mountain range. A few published early work in Mountain Gazette and went on to write famous, memorable books--like Edward Abbey (The Monkey Wrench Gang), Ted Kerasote (Navigations) and David Roberts (Moments of Doubt).

Camp4 posted the press release for Go Higher back in November, when Mountain Gazette sent us a copy to review for them. Since then, two issues of the monthly magazine have hit the streets, and we’ve read (and re-read, and passed around to friends) the anthology looking for something to say about it that they missed in the press release.

Here it is: If you haven’t bumped into a copy of it, or haven’t read a recent Mountain Gazette, or don’t even know what we’re talking about – then, this will be a good book for you. Find it. Beg, borrow, or steal your friend’s copy. Or better yet, buy one for yourself – this is one you’ll keep on the bookshelf and read again and again. This is great hot tub, arm chair, and roadtrip reading. If you’re a fan of Abbey, you’ll particularly like the essays by, about, and of his life and work. If you have ever wanted to know how the late Galen Rowell’s mind worked aside from his incredible numbers of classic FAs and brilliant photography, or what Royal Robbins thinks when he’s climbing, or have just wanted to be amused reading great short literature centered around the mountain lifestyle, this book will do it for you.

I read this book roadtripping to a hut skiing trip, and then again in the hot tub, trying to soak it all in. I’ll be reading it again later tonight. A few of the essays bored me, frankly; but then, they’re not for everyone, and they don’t pretend to be. There are too many things to talk about, life in the mountains, for this everything to appeal to every person who lives here. But if you ski, or you climb, or you love the open spaces of the desert, or you have always wanted to ‘simplify’ your life and move to a mountain town, something (and probably several somethings) will speak to you. They’ll make you think – that’s what good writing will do. You won’t agree with everything, but you’ll think about it. You’ll reinforce those things that you believe in, and worry less about those things that don’t matter to us day-to-day; this is intellectual escapism in one of its finest forms.

A mix of fiction, life, wishing, dreaming, remembering, and idealizing; all of these stories will have a place for you, somewhere, at some time, in your next few months. This is an anthology, not of the ‘best,’ not of the ‘favorite,’ but of a spattering of the many wonderful. These are stories that you will want to read again, next week or a dozen years from now, because you remember how magical they felt when you read them here for the first time – or, if you are old enough to have read the original printings or lucky enough to have had that crazy uncle who kept the old issues lying around, for the second or eighth time. This one goes in the stocking next year for all my friends who keep saying, ten years later, ‘yeah, I still plan to move out to the mountains soon.’

M. John Fayhee is editor/publisher of Mountain Gazette and the author of seven books. He lives in Summit County, Colorado. You can purchase a copy of this book by visiting the Mountain Gazette website at

*** Highly Recommended

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