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The Magician's Glass




The Magician's Glass by Ed Douglas.

Character and fate: Eight essays on climbing and the mountain life. 'How much risk is worth taking for so beautiful a prize?"


ISBN: 978-1911342489

Written by: Ed Douglas

Published by: Vertebrate Publishing

Reviewed by: Karin Magog


Ed Douglas has been climbing since the early 1980's. He launched the popular climbing magazine On The Edge while still at university. Ed went on to published eight books including many award winning biographies. The Magician's Glass is a compilation of some excellent, previously published, climbing articles from the past few years. In each chapter Ed Douglas explores one of the controversies and the complex personalities of some of the most famous names in climbing, including Ueli Steck, Tomaz Humar, Toni Eggar, Patrick Edlinger and Kurt Albert. Three of the essay's included were either shortlisted or have won at the Banff Mountain Book Festival.

Each story gives a fascinating insight into their climbing lives; how they started, which other climbers influenced them, their climbing partnerships and in many cases, the story of a particular incident that came to define them. The book is certainly well researched but I’ll admit to finding it a bit too loquacious at times and the introduction of all the minor characters a bit of a distraction sometimes to the main story. However, this may be due to the fact that I am purely a rock climber and not a mountaineer so I am less aware of the history of Alpinism. I did find the stories of both Kurt Albert and Patrick Edlinger particularly interesting though and, as if the case with many of the personalities in the book, their deaths very tragic.

Even though at first glance the book may seem like an eclectic collection of stories, on further reading they all invoke the questions why do we climb, what drives us and why are some people prepared to push that bit further. A fascinating topic with no clear answers. On the whole a very interesting book that I fear will leave you with more unanswered questions than you bargained for.


Sadly in April 2017 as this book was being printed the Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck slipped and fell 1,000m while climbing Nuptse before his planned ascent of Everest. Steck was known as the “Swiss Machine” for his fast ascents of hard alpine climbs. Ed Douglas said Ueli’s nickname had failed to capture the essence of the man. “One thing Ueli Steck wasn’t and that’s a machine, warm and at times surprisingly fragile, but not a machine.” His close friend  for many years Jon Griffith knew Ueli well. "As a photographer I get to see some of the world's best in action and I've never seen anyone move as fast and efficiently as Ueli""The Everest-Lhotse traverse would have been his redeeming climb in the eyes of the world; proof of his abilities that should never have been needed."



Further Reading:


Kurt Albert obituary by Ed Douglas


Patrick Edlinger obituary by Ed Douglas


Tomaz Humar obituary by Ed Douglas


Toni Eggar Fatal Accident?  by Ed Douglas


Ueli Steck obituary by Ed Douglas