Published the 13 July 2017
Lying on your towel at the beach with the sun beating down, you can feel the heat….It’s hot, really hot. You close your eyes and all of a sudden you feel the need for a breath of cool fresh air, the need to get up on high like a bearded vulture on the summits.
From behind your sunglasses, images of the mountains, peaks, fir trees, cattle in the pastures and marmots on the lookout for danger pass before your closed eyes. You can just about make out their whistle, over the sound of the river gushing through the valley. Your imagination goes wild, you’ve left the beach and the warm sand far behind as you get up close to the mountains and valleys.
Are you ready to set off on an adventure…ready to open the dust-covered book you found in your grandfather’s old trunk before you left?
What if your book was one of our top 5 unmissable mountain getaways?
1/5 «Gaspard de la Meije» - a novel written by Isabelle Scheibli
He was a local boy - one of us. The Meije summit was his summit and he wasn’t about to let anyone else climb it before him, especially not a «foreigner». On August 16th 1877, Pierre Gaspard, (born and bred in Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans) a peasant farmer and skilled hunter for whom the mountains held no secrets, climbed the last of the unconquered Alpine summits: la Meije, accompanied by Emmanuel Boileau de Castelnau.
More than just an account of their ascent, this is the tale of an unassuming, authentic and proud man, like many men who lived in the remote valleys at that time. The stories are written with great detail, with everyday situations that allow the reader to imagine the surroundings, travelling through the pages to discover the farms, the little alpine pasture houses and village bars. More than just a reader, you get an inside glimpse into the most unique and sincere moments.
«I was 13 when I found this novel on my father’s bookshelf and started reading it. Right from the first pages, it was a real eye-opener! Isabelle Scheibli’s straightforward style of writing took me to another world…whilst I sat comfortably on the sofa, I found myself scrambling over the Oisans’ mountains. This passionate tale made me look forward to the «compulsory» mountain hikes with my parents….I no longer looked at the experience in the same way».
2/5 «Le bonheur en marche» by Patrick Viveret and Mathieu Baudin
«A conveyor - gatherer» of several different disciplines, ranging from philosophy to economy and political science; this is how Patrick Viveret describes himself. This says a lot about his collection of stories, recounting the exchanges and discussions that took place at the Chemin Faisant walking and philosophy festival in Chamonix in 2014.
Whilst disturbing at first glance, this book takes you to the heart of discussions that cover the changes taking place in the world, in our daily life, examining our values and what the future holds through exchanges between passion mountain people, at the foot of the majestic Mont Blanc mountain range.
Reading this book certainly won’t leave you indifferent… plenty of deep thinking guaranteed!
Want to take a sneak peek at the book? Let’s head to page 65.
«Even if you look far into the future, mankind will always have to live with its conscience, accepting also that death is a reality, that we are a being that has desires as well as needs, taking into account our relationship with others, and with ourselves… ».
«It has to be one of the most dog-eared books in my collection. I don’t know about you, but each time a section of the book resonates with me, I’ve got this terrible habit of turning over the corner of the page. Want to know my top tip? Keep a notebook at your side whilst you’re reading it … »
3/5 “La Cordée Royale” by Marcel Pérès
Have you ever heard of Michel Croz and Edouard Whymper? “Two giants of mountaineering” as the author, a former manager of Chamonix’s National Skiing and Mountaineering School, likes to call them. By relating several of their most prestigious ascents, this 400-page book tells the story of the relationship between the brave and wise Chamonix guide and his young, hot-headed English client. Much more than a simple mountaineering account, “La Cordée Royale” takes a look at the intimacy of the relationship between two men with absolutely nothing in common who, by dint of courage, conflicts and major highs, forged an unlikely bond. Set off to discover a true story about real people!
“Ultimately, this book is made up of several standalone accounts. Leave a bit of time between each of the stories. Punctuated by a number of quotes and woodcarvings from the time, this book will be a precious companion to pick up now and again for a secret escape from your day-to-day life.”
4/5 “Savoie stories and folk tales” by Charles Joisten
Set off to discover ‘Bienheureux Paul’ who perished under the snow in the Belleville Valley, unless you prefer Saint-Paul-sur-Isère’s flying serpent or perhaps ‘le foulat’, an imp local to Peisey-Nancroix. This collection of Tarentaise stories and legends, the result of a number of interviews and testimonies from our villages’ elders, will transport you into the popular imagination of mountain-dwellers.
Readers aged from 7 to 77 will be plunged into the heart of these remote valleys where, in winter especially, fear of the devil was still very much alive.
Much more than a simple collection of unusual stories, this book lets you grasp local inhabitants’ beliefs and discover, for every village, hamlet and even sometimes families, real people’s fears and imaginations.
“When I first “met” this collection, it was the cover more than the title that drew my attention. It featured a comedic cartoon of a bishop, carrying a cross, barefoot in the snow, running after the devil. What an illustration, so full of imagination! I love being able to pinpoint the locations for all these stories and legends and even in some cases, find the person who told the story to “the collector” in the first place.
To be read and re-read to your heart’s content!”
5/5 “Whymper, the fool of the Matterhorn” by Max Chamson
Some people never fail to make an impression. How many books have been written about this young Englishman, a hero whose heroism on the Matterhorn is sometimes contested and sometimes celebrated.
The question of whether or not he cut the rope to claim victory over this legendary mountain and cause his climbing party to fall during their descent is all down to an improbable combination of factors.
Reading this novel, which relates the true story of the conquest of the Valaisan pyramid from Zermatt, will make you a fully-fledged member of the climbing party which, on the 14th of July 1865, climbed the Matterhorn for the first time. The author’s descriptive style lets you experience this Alpine saga down to the last detail.
Are you ready to set off, side by side with Taugwalder and son, reverend Charles Hudson, ‘bersaglier’ Jean-Antoine Carrel, and Luc Meynet, in the adventure to conquer the Matterhorn?
“After having read a good number of books on Edward Whymper, I have to confess that he’s still something of a mystery to me. The story of this stubborn wood engraver’s son remains an enigma. Perhaps you can help me out after you’ve read it? More generally, for those who don’t feel like climbing the Matterhorn themselves, this book is the best way of discovering a mountain, its people and a one of the most legendary valleys in the Alpine imagination.”
This top 5 is obviously very subjective. A multitude of other books could very well have been included.
How about you, which mountain books “refresh” you the most?
Happy reading and before then… look after yourself!