A book review of Gaston Rébuffat’s classic “Starlight & Storm” - a Must Read for anyone just remotely interested in going outdoors.
I ordered Starlight & Storm and a bunch of “Classic Mountain Literature” last autumn, probably after getting just another recommendation that it’s a superb book. Getting a book recommended several times sometimes makes me hesistant, but well, I love to read and as the mountains are far away at the moment reading about them is pretty much the next best thing (after browsing photography books of the mountains). Rébuffat’s most well-known book is likely this one or The Mont Blanc Massif: The Hundred Finest Routes, and I think both books will be found on the bookshelf of a well-read mountaineer, alpinist or hill walker.
The book starts of with a short biography blurb on Rébuffat’s life which is followed by an introduction from Jon Krakauer, which is followed by yet another introduction, a Foreword and then finally you get to read Rébuffat’s words. Puh. Well, the good thing is that the good stuff starts right there with Rébuffat’ story of his ascent of the Grand Jorasses. This and the following chapters, where he descibes his adventures with friends of the great North Faces of the Alps is what really makes this book worth reading.
Everything about the climbing of it was a joy, and as we climbed I seemed to understand the meaning of our exploit. It was not the increasing nearness of the summit, or the climb in itself, that filled us with a quiet joy, but the feeling that mind and muscles were fulfilling their intended function. Somehow we were “in the right place.” - Gaston Rébuffat, Starlight & Storm, The North-east Face of Piz Badile
I loved the accounts of how he tied up with clients and friends, how they spend nights on these big faces and enjoyed the starlight and peace of the night but welcomed the first rays of sunlight in the morning after a cold bivy, or how they turned around to come back another time because of bad weather. The Brotherhood of the Rope is strong in this book, and you feel that the people Rébuffat was climbing with were more than just climbing partners - they were brothers, sharing a single objective, living together on the rock, between the sky, ice, snow, wind and rain.
The chapters are short enough so that it’s easy to read them before going to bed or commuting to work in a week, and every Mountain chapter is accompanied by a Black-White photo of the mountain in question. What bothered me slightly was that the height and distance measurements where given in illogic feet, but apart from that I loved every part of the book. It’s a fascinating read, not just for alpinists and mountaineers, but also for people who wonder why one would climb a steep, inhospitable rock face. If you can not get to the mountains any time soon, I recommend you pick up this book and dream of having a bivy on one of these Northfaces! Buy the book at your local book shop or order it online from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de.