I’m tempted to name today as 1/1/01 A.D., as in “After Davenport.” I just got an advance copy of Dav’s new book “Ski The 14ers” — and that’s (nearly) how earth shattering I believe this is as a mountaineering publication.
In case you’ve been living in a Patagonian snowcave with no satphone, it was just early last winter when Davenport finished his project to ski all Colorado 14,000 foot peaks in one 12 month period. Not only was that an amazing accomplishment, but he skied the peaks in style that not only matched or exceeded that of previous summit ski descents on that 14ers, but was true to the modern “free skiing” “big mountain” ethos that requires bold descents, preferably with excellent photographers and videographers in tow. As Michael Kennedy writes in his back cover squib: “…Davenport’s skill and audacity on skis is matched by firm respect for history and steadfast devotion to ideals of… tenacity and commitment.” Well, if Dav’s performance on the 14ers wasn’t enough, he’s applied those same standards to this beautiful printed tribute to our 14ers and the art of skiing them.
“Ski The 14ers” is a big bold audacious coffee table book, 12×13 inches, 144 pages, with over 200 color photos. Yep, this book is about images. Sure, I’m indeed honored by Davenport including a foreword I penned, and each peak has text written by Dav that runs the gamut from straight reporting to soulful insight. But wow, the photos are fantastic! For example, ever wondered what the Landry Route on Pyramid Peak really looks like (especially after trying to check it out using the tiny black and white photo in my old 14er guidebook)? Just flip to page 73 and there she be, glory, thanks to photog and Dav trip partner Neal Beidleman. And with Pyramid it’s not only about the photo, but also the historic second descent of the Landry Route 28 years after the first. Ditto for Capitol Peak, which Davenport and Beidleman skied a new and super tough line on.
The book is organized with a chapter for each range along with a section for each peak. One thing that struck me is the excellent combination of downhill ski images, climbing shots and lifestyle vignettes. Book designer Art Burrows took a risk by not packing this pub with cliche ski “porn,” but it works. I love climbing, many of you blog readers love climbing, so why not show more photos of how we spend most of our days in the mountains? I guess in some cases publishers such as movie makers just can’t do that — probably because many so called “big” mountain skiers wimp out and spend their careers riding helicopters.
Chris has done his share of heli skiing, after all, he has to make a living. But he loves climbing just like we do, and take my word for it, his climbs on the 14ers were just as important to him as the down. Or don’t listen to me, just check out the book. You can make a pre-order (shipping soon) here. Doing so might be a good idea because I believe the first printing of this book will sell out immediately. Looking for the ultimate 2007 skier’s Christmas gift? Get on it.
Now, let me get a little more personal about this. I didn’t know Chris that well when he started his project, but I knew he was a skilled climber and a world class skier. Thus, my immediate take when he proposed his then (and still) audacious project was not skepticism, but rather something like “wow, this is what I’ve been waiting for!”
I’ve now got quite a lengthy mountaineering career under my belt, and one thing that’s enriched those years has been the heroes I looked back on while striving for my own accomplishments — and even heroes of my own generation who did things I failed at or never even had time to try. That’s all great, but with Chris I had an entirely new generational experience as a mountain man. I now had a hero of what we can call the “next generation, ” and discovered there’s no better glow than seeing the next gen come along, take up the torch, and exceed even your wildest expectations. I’m sure the ride I got out of this is minuscule in comparison to that which Dav and his partners got, but it was very special to me, even sweet. And now this book sums it all up.
What’s more, I’d like to thank Chris Davenport for his sharing attitude in all this. Some have accused his hype and publicity as being ego driven in a negative sense. Now knowing Chris fairly well and having communicated with him quite a bit throughout his project, I’d say he’s no more at fault with the ego issue than any normal person, and that the bulk of his motivation is simply to share the trove of white gold he’d found in Colorado (and of course perform the necessary PR work for his career as a professional skier). Look at it this way, if you found a pile of gold on the street, wouldn’t you spread some around? That’s what Dav is doing with “Ski The 14ers.” In that he honors myself and all other 14er skiers, as well as alpinism in general.
(P.S., let’s hope we see this book as a contender in the next Banff Book Festival — I’m betting it’ll win top prize — what an honor that would be for ski mountaineering!)