“Valley Walls” by Glen Denny, reviewed by Gregory Crouch for the WSJ

Wall Walls cover copyHere’s “Scaling the Walls of Yosemite,” my review of Valley Walls: A Memoir of Climbing & Living in Yosemite by Glen Denny in the September 3 & 4, 2016 issue of The Wall Street Journal.



Here’s a screen shot of the review online (click on the image to link to the review on the WSJ website):

Valley Walls copyThis is the 26th book I’ve reviewed for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR Books, and others.

Here’s the full list of books I’ve reviewed.


The Triumph and Tragedy of Ryan Jennings

It’s a story I wish I’d never had to write, or not this one, because Ryan Jennings was a great story, but here it is, “Life Interrupted,” in the new issue of Rock & Ice magazine (October 2016, No. 237) about hardman, family man, and all around great guy Ryan Jennings, with whom I once spent a long weekend at Devils Tower in 2002. Sadly, this past December, Ryan was killed by the collapse of an ice pillar outside of Redstone, Colorado, leaving behind a wife, Robin, two children, Beck and Brooke, a mother and father, two sisters, a host of friends and climbing partners, and one of the best alpine-style first ascents ever accomplished in North America.


Few people have ever known how to get so much love, friendship, and outrageous enjoyment out of life as Ryan Jennings. By the time we lost him, Ryan had probably forgotten more about having fun than most of us will ever learn.


My profound thanks and sympathies go out to Robin Jennings, Alex Jennings, Kevin Cooper, and Robbie Williams, all of whom gave generously of their time and emotional honesty. Without their help, I couldn’t have written this story. Alison Osius and Duane Raleigh of Rock & Ice also deserve thanks for their editorial contributions and guidance.

Filmmaker Tyler Young brought Ryan and I together that weekend we spent  at Devils Tower to make a short film for National Geographic about George Hopkins, a record-setting parachutist who, in October 1941, landed on top of Devils Tower to win a $50 bet–and then couldn’t get down. In a classic piece of all-American weirdness, the ten day effort to rescue Hopkins shared headlines all over the country with stories about the searing heatwave baking the East Coast, the Dodgers battling the Yankees in the World Series, and Operation Typhoon, the German Army’s assault on Moscow. (Nearly twenty years ago, I wrote a story about the rescue, “The Sensational Hopkins Affair,” that appeared in Rock & Ice in June 1997, No. 79.)

Click on the photo below to check out the video Tyler made about the rescue that weekend:

Newreel copy

There are a few nice shots of Ryan in Tyler’s video, some of me huffing and puffing up the classic Durrance Route, and some fantastic newsreel footage of the rescue, including a clip of Hopkins actually landing on the summit. (Just after 2:30.)

One episode in “Life Interrupted” deals with Ryan and Kevin Cooper climbing Shaken, Not Stirred above the Ruth Gorge of the Alaska Range–and nearly getting killed on the way down. There’s probably a bit of a connection between that climb and our Devils Tower weekend. Jim Donini and I had made Shaken, Not Stirred’s first ascent a few years before and I remember talking to Ryan about it while we were lounging around on the column tops at the Tower waiting for Tyler to set up his next shot. I posted photos and stories from the first ascent of Shaken, Not Stirred in 2013. Great route.



(On the left, that’s Kevin Cooper’s 2003 photo of Ryan a few feet below Englishman’s Col at the end of the route; on the right, Jim Donini in 1997. Photos taken from close to the same spot.)

And since a few climbers will probably read this post, here’s one about the first ascent of another classic alpine route Jim and I did together, this one in Patagonia: A Fine Piece, pictures and stories from the first ascent.

I tried to talk Ryan into climbing that one, too. ;-)

This didn’t make it into the Rock & Ice story, but this is BY FAR my best Ryan Jennings story, one I’ve been threatening to write for 12 years…

Gregory Crouch - Right Mate, Let's Get On With It


It has happened before…

… Fortunately, in those days, the good citizens of San Francisco took it as an enormous joke.

Emperor Norton copy“At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton… declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the first day of February next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.”


Norton I, Emperor of the United States
(San Francisco Bulletin, 17th September, 1859)

Here’s his wikipedia entry


The Sharp End by Katie Ives, featuring Enduring Patagonia

Delighted to see a discussion of Enduring Patagonia right at the beginning of “The Sharp End,” Alpinist editor Katie Ives’s front-of-the-book editorial, in her summer 2016 issue (No. 54).

(Click on the image to read it enlarged.)

FullSizeRenderMighty fine to share the page with Alex Honnold, Colin Haley, Kelly Cordes, and Rolando Garibotti. I’d love to learn what Alex Honnold thought of his EP read. What he and Colin have accomplished in Patagonia in recent seasons leaves me slack-jawed in astonishment. (.oot, nytaroB gerG yb otohp a fo lleH)

EP Kindle edition
Kindle edition
Enduring Patagonia paperback

“Continental Divide” by Maurice Isserman, reviewed by Gregory Crouch

Continental Divide Cover copyHere’s “Climb Every Mountain,” my review of Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering by Maurice Isserman in the May 1, 2016 issue of The New York Times Book Review.



Here’s a screen shot of the review online (click on the image to go to the review on the NYT website):

Continental Divide review copy

David M. Shribman, executive editor of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reviewed Continental Divide for The Wall Street Journal in “High Society.” Very different POV than mine.

Here’s the full list of books I’ve reviewed for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR Books, and others. (This is the 25th.)


The perils of predicting the future…

If you’re going to predict the future, you’d better be prepared to be spectacularly wrong…

Excerpt from an immigrant’s journal, written near “Sacramento City,” California, September 18, 1849:

“As for living in this country, it is too poor for man, beast, or the devil. The hills are so poor and parched up that they can scarcely hold up the rocks on their tops. I was reading Henry Clay’s speech, on the 13th of March last, on his compromise Bill in which he expressed the opinion that the immigrants to California, like those to Louisiana, will in ninety cases out of a hundred become permanent citizens. If Clay were to come out here he would take that back, for it appears to me that he just as well link heaven and hell in the same speech, as Louisiana and California. I have never seen a man yet, among all the vast crowd that are here, who thinks of remaining longer than he can make a raise; and all that some ask is enough to go home on.”

Fayette Boys en route to California, 1849,” in the Merrill J. Mattes Collection on the Oregon-California Trails Association website.


Ernest Hemingway and China’s Wings in the South China Morning Post

Thrilled to see this story about Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in the Valentine’s Day edition of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post: “In Love and War: a Hong Kong honeymoon for Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn.”

Looks like a few chunks of the story were sourced from this website.

China’s Wings, William Langhorne Bond, the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), Emily “Mickey” Hahn, and Pan Am all get substantial mentions.

SCMP copy I suspect the author sourced these posts I made shortly after China’s Wings published: Emily Hahn, Ernest Hemingway, China’s Wings, and the Boxer Uprising; and Emily Hahn and CNAC, aka The Hardest Cut; and Ernest Hemingway and China’s Wings.

China's WingsI read all of the books mentioned in the story when I was researching and writing China’s Wings. Martha Gellhorn’s Travels With Myself and Another is a minor classic. The description of Hemingway defeating a dozen Chinese generals in a drinking contest had me howling with laughter.

Never bad to get mentioned in a story about Ernest Hemingway.


My review of “The Last Thousand” by Jeffrey E. Stern

Last Thousand cover copyHere’s “Education as a pathway to pacifying a violent nation,” my review of The Last Thousand: One School’s Promise in a Nation at War by Jeffrey E. Stern in the February 14, 2016 issue of The Washington Post.

“… a paean to the power of education and its potential to peacefully revolutionize a violent nation.”


Last Thousand review copy

Review 001Here’s the full list of book reviews I’ve done for The WSJ, The Washington Post, NPR Books, and elsewhere. (This is the 24th.)