The Man Who Climbed the Matterhorn
I have known three mountaineers, but I feel funny standing on a chair to wind the clock if I have nothing to hold on to. Given my fear of heights, it may seem surprising that, as a teenager, I read mountaineering books. But we read, not least in youth, partly to find out who we are and who we are not. I read about what terrified me – Hunt on Everest, Herzog on Annapurna and, most memorably, bridging the gap from childhood, James Ramsey Ullman. Ullman was an adventure-story writer with an eye for film rights who for several decades was the objective but inspirational voice, in history and in fiction, of mountaineering literature, a field dominated by first-person memoirs. His Banner in the Sky (1954) told the Matterhorn story for children, while The White Tower (1950), a fine Second World War mountaineering novel, wonderfully evokes the space, the weather and the neck-craning heights.