The Last of His Kind

To continue my armchair approach to hiking and mountaineering lately, I am happy to report completing read The Last of His Kind: The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America’s Boldest Mountaineer by David Roberts.

This biography is about David Roberts’ mentor.  As Roberts said of Washburn and his remarkable accomplishments in Alaska, “not only is he one of a kind, but as one of a kind they don’t make any more.”  The book is a wonderful tribute to Alaska’s greatest mountaineer.  Washburn was an explorer in Alaska, photographer and the Director of the Boston Museum of Science.  The book is a wonderful survey of earlier climbing and the great man’s life off the rock and ice.

While there are numerous other books on Washburn and while he is part of many other stories, the point this book makes that is most unique is about Washburn’s mountain photography.  His work is distinct from others like Ansel Adams and Roberts identifies why: Washburn took photos of mountains to document the mountain and possible routes.  They were archived records rather than artistic works, though they are certainly appreciated by mountain lovers like me.

Even in some of his controversies, Washburn is hard to dislike and even harder to unappreciate his strengths after reading this story, which is typical of a biography by a “fan” like Roberts.  Regardless, and unfortunately, because of the times and the evolution of mountaineering and exploration, there will never be another like him.

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