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list price: $3.99
also available: Hardcover
category: Sports & Recreation
published: Sep 2015
publisher: RMB | Rocky Mountain Books

Alpine Warriors

by Bernadette McDonald

tagged: mountaineering, baltic states, adventurers & explorers

Winner, Mountaineering History, 2015 Banff Mountain Book Competition

From internationally renowned mountain historian Bernadette McDonald comes a highly readable, intense and exciting look at the explosion of Slovenian alpinism in the context of that country’s turbulent political history.

After the Second World War a period of relative calm began in Josip Broz Tito’s Yugoslavia. During the next thirty years citizens could travel freely if they had the money. Most did not, but alpinists did.

Through elaborate training régimes and state-supported expeditions abroad, Yugoslavian alpinists began making impressive climbs in the Himalaya as early as 1960. By the ’70s, they were ascending the 8000ers. These teams were dominated by Slovenian climbers, since their region includes the Julian Alps, a fiercely steep range of limestone peaks that provided the ideal training ground.

After Tito died in 1980, however, the calm ended. Interethnic conflict and economic decline ripped Yugoslavia apart. But Serbian strongman Slobodan Miloevic misread the courage and character of several Yugoslavian states, including Slovenia, and by 1991 Slovenia was independent.

The new country continued its support for climbers, and success bred success. By 1995, all of the 8000ers had been climbed by Slovenian teams. And in the next ten years, some of the most dramatic and futuristic climbs were made by these ferocious alpinists. Apart from a few superstars, most of these amazing athletes remain unknown in the West.

About the Author

Bernadette McDonald

  • Winner, Mountaineering History
Editorial Reviews

A fascinating account of the extraordinary achievements of the alpinists from this tiny Slovenian nation which has spawned some of the most talented, colourful, controversial and innovative mountaineers of modern climbing history. Once started, I couldn’t put the book down till it was finished.

— Sir Chris Bonington

To be sure, modern mountaineering is a British, and also a Central European, invention. Finally, after the Polish, Slovenian climbers took traditional alpinism one step further.

— Reinhold Messner

In this sweeping narrative, Bernadette McDonald casts a spotlight on the history of Slovenian alpinism. She tells the story of a nation’s love affair with mountains, played out through the exploits of an elite and uncompromising band of high altitude athletes. Her accounts of their audacious expeditions make for compelling, and sometimes harrowing, reading. Throughout the book she threads the inspired writing of the legendary climber Nejc Zaplotnik, helping us to understand what drove these mountaineers and what - despite the attrition - kept them on their path. An important story, meticulously researched and skillfully told.

— Maria Coffey
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