THE ALTITUDE JOURNALS
A Seven-Year Journey from the Lowest Point in My Life to the Highest Point on Earth
David J. Mauro Self (456 pp.)
$26.99 paperback, $7.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1-5445-0049-2; May 1, 2018
A financial planner becomes a mountaineer and conquers the Seven Summits in this gripping debut memoir.
Mauro was living what he describes as a “comfortable, safe life” in Washington state when, at age 44, he decided to become a mountain climber. His motivation for doing so was complex, but divorce and depression were key factors. The next seven years saw him climb the highest mountain peaks on each continent, known as the Seven Summits: Denali in Alaska, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Elbrus in Russia, Aconcagua in Argentina, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and finally, Everest in Asia. The memoir tracks his progress as he prepared for and completed each climb while also battling his inner demons with a therapist’s help. His development is remarkable as he progressed from being a naïve beginner tackling Denali to a focused mountaineer summiting Everest. His psychological journey is also notable, as he became a braver, more determined person with a deeper sense of self-awareness. His life took an unexpected turn in 2007, when he found love through online dating. Mauro has a hard-hitting, straight-from-the-shoulder writing style: “Then comes the moment when your dream turns on you. You are in pain. You imagine the summit. But instead of being energized by that image, you extrapolate your current condition into an unbearable sum of suffering to come, and that sum easily dwarfs the payoff. You are done.” He also displays a profound understanding of the psychological battles that one must win in order to achieve extraordinary physical feats. His memoir is a lesson in positive thinking—something essential to a mountaineer, as being “fearful or agitated” causes the body to use more oxygen. Mauro also has a wickedly wry sense of humor; in a list of things he learned while visiting Papua New Guinea, he notes: “It is advisable to yield on price when bartering at the point of a bayonet.” Overall, this is a sharply executed, inspirational, and thoroughly entertaining read. (The book includes photos of the author and other people he met during his journey.)
An arresting work that captures the struggles of both mountain climbing and everyday life.