Book review: William Alsup’s “Missing in the Minarets: The Search for Walter A. Starr, Jr.”

This is a small book but a very interesting read. The subject is the death of a prominent young mountaineer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in 1933, and the subsequent search for his body. I don’t think I am giving anything away by stating that they did find it.

The author brings in a considerable amount of material about the early days of moutaineering and the Sierra Club, and some relevant information about Starr’s family and friends. There are a number of previously unpublished photographs taken during the search; unfortunately, they are, like many other photos in the book, just pictures of mountains. Thankfully, there are several diagrams and maps which help to clarify the lay of the land. Still, the inability to really show the routes of the climbers is a deficiency; this seems to be a characteristic of this book genre. I don’t see why it’s so difficult, and I don’t see why authors and editors don’t understand the issue. All it would take is three or four well-chosen photographs (or even drawings) with the routes drawn in. Instead, there are the inevitable thousand words, which don’t provide an adequate mental image of the terrain, and inevitably make one’s head spin trying to understand the attempts at descriptions of spatial relationships.
The family had made the rather bizarre request that the remains be interred where he died. Well, such an effort on a hazardous spot on a huge rock mountain leads to certain (shall we say) consequences. The author ends with a fascinating description of a recent visit to the site.

I recommend this book, giving it a 3.5 out of 4.


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Filed under books, global warming/environment, Outdoors, San Francisco, travel

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