On the 100th anniversary of the first attempt to climb Mt Everest, Margret Grebowicz shows how and why climbing and mountaineering are still important today.
In 1923, a reporter asked George Mallory why he wanted to summit Mount Everest. “Because it’s there”.
Today the question "why do this?" is included in nearly every mountaineering story or interview. Meanwhile, interest in climbing is steadily on the rise, from commercial mountaineering and climbing walls in university gyms and corporate workplaces to the flood of spectacular climbing imagery in advertising, cinema, and social media. Climbing has become the theater for imagining limits—of the human body and of the planet— and the nature of desire, motivation, and #goals.
Covering the degradation of Everest, the banning of climbing on Australia’s Uluru, UNESCO’s decision to name alpinism an Intangible Cultural Heritage, the sudden death of Ueli Steck, and the commercial and critical success of Free Solo, Mountains and Desire chases after what remains of this pursuit – marred by its colonial history, coopted by nationalistic chauvinism, ableism, and the capitalist compulsion to unlimited growth – for both climbers and their fans.
About the Author
Margret Grebowicz explores the cultural aspects of environmental problems and solutions in her writing and public speaking. She is the author of Whale Song, The National Park to Come, and Why Internet Porn Matters, and co-author of Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway. She has worked as a professional jazz vocalist in New York City and a philosophy professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, Goucher College in Baltimore, and the University of Tyumen, Russia.
"In this beautiful book, Margret Grebowicz examines the many meanings of mountaineering, then and now: what these meanings tell us about ourselves, and what they tell us about mountains as well." - Steven Shaviro, author of Discognition
"A philosophical speed-climb, a topo map of our new Terra Incognita. I finished it grateful for a new sense of clarity.” - Kim Stanley Robinson
"A treasure trove of insights exploring and critiquing the idea of climbing – upward pursuit -– in all its forms. Generous, fascinating, and written in sharp and lucid prose, Mountains and Desire illuminates an intoxicating and dangerous obsession through a startling range of material." - Martin MacInnes, author of Infinite Ground
"A fascinating attempt to answer the eternal question – why are you going up there? – for a new century. It will spur many to think more deeply." - Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home
“Offers a timely appraisal of our relationship with high places.” - Caught by the River