The introduction to Art Davidson‘s Minus 148° claims that it is “one of the few true classics in the literature of mountaineering”, and having recently read it, I would happen to agree. Tight and vivid in its description of the first winter ascent of Mt. McKinley (Denali), the book details both the varied and colourful personalities of the expedition members as well as the events of the climb itself.
Few of us could imagine the situation that Davidson, Johnston, and “Pirate” Genet found themselves in, holed up for days in a snow cave for days on end, with the windchill outside below 148 degrees, and the other expedition members below slowing being persuaded that the climbers above must be dead. Yet despite the unimaginable suffering endured after the success of reaching the summit and the tragedies that unfolded weeks earlier on the climb, the trio managed to persevere and endure until a break in the storm let them descend.
This is a remarkable tale of human survival and victory as well as a glimpse into the mind of the climber, and why he chooses to place himself into such hardship. This may not be a long book, but you will be gripped from beginning to end.