4 out of 4 stars
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The Altitude Journals by David J. Mauro is a wonderful autobiographical work spanning a 7-year period where the author climbs 7 of the worlds' tallest peeks. Each mountain teaches him something about himself, with the first bringing problems to the surface. Each climb is like peeling back a layer of an onion as he deals with issues ranging from his failed marriage to his rocky relationship with his father.
Mauro begins by giving some personal details from his childhood. He was never athletic. His father left them when he was young, and he carries the wounds with him into adulthood. He was never looking to be a mountain climber and the fact that he was never into sports as a young man, makes him hesitant to accept when his brother-in-law invites him to climb with them while he films a documentary of Denali. He decides to go, having just been through a divorce, thinking that perhaps it will help him. He feels that he is in the lowest point of his life and as they near the summit of that first climb, he sees a vision of his older brother who had passed away a few years before. In the vision, his brother is cheering him on saying, "You can do it." But instead of the climb fixing his problems, he realizes that mountains are there to reveal our problems. We have to do the work in our everyday lives to fix our problems.
Mauro has a wonderful sense of humor. There were moments when I laughed out loud while reading this book. For example, his mother buys him a pet fish shortly after his divorce which he names Axel. He has mock conversations with his fish who wants to take over the world. "I would come home from work, and he [Axel] would immediately ask about our coup in Madagascar. "It is ours," I would answer flatly. To this Axel laughed maniacally, making snorting noises through his tiny fish nose."
The book was also deeply moving, dealing with subjects that we can all relate to such as relationships, family dynamics, and feelings of inadequacy. Mauro states that "...we come to believe in ourselves when we deal with our problems, not by climbing mountains." He stresses that going on wild adventures does not fix our problems. Having the courage to face and deal with them is the only way we can experience a breakthrough.
I enjoyed everything about this book. I loved getting to read about Mauro's experiences on the mountains he climbed, the people he met, and the lessons each mountain taught him. He also gives historical details about the mountains, which I found fascinating. He described each place so vividly that I felt I was climbing the mountains with him. It is a beautiful story of healing, forgiveness, and most of all, love. I found the Kilimanjaro climb especially moving. Mauro talks about how nature is at once beautiful and dangerous. It requires us to take a risk to experience the beauty of the wild and that "...relationships were a lot like the natural world, where beauty in its highest form, love, could only be known when taking great personal risk."
I could find nothing that I did not like about this book. The book looked to be professionally edited as I found not one error. For this reason and all the many golden nuggets in this book, I rate it a 4 out of 4 stars. There is something for everyone: adventure, romance, humor, and raw human emotion. I recommend it as more than just a mountain climbers' memoirs - it is a beautiful tale of one mans' journey to healing and freedom, with the message of hope that we can all find the same - if we have the courage to face our own demons and allow ourselves to heal.
The Altitude Journals
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