Pickets and Dead Men

Pickets and Dead Men
Bree Lowen, 2009

Premise: A memoir of being a climbing ranger on Mount Rainier.

This was a prominent recommendation in a comment thread about books about mountaineering and women, and I definitely see why. It's a series of funny, frightening, visceral vignettes. As you read, you definitely understand why it was a life-altering experience, even if the author performed this job for just three summers. 

Be warned, it is a little gross at times, and the author also chooses to highlight some moments of callous or posturing behavior that she felt at the time was necessary to hold her own in a testosterone-heavy field. The balance between action and personal reflection felt authentic for the job and the setting. 

The job includes exciting rescues, but also body retrieval, assisting the wounded and lost, and the daily effort not to become one of the wounded or lost on the mountain. I have no aspirations to summit Rainier (although props to friends who've done it!), but if I did, I imagine reading this book would be a good step to reality-check any expectations. I mean, it even starts with a seriously scary misadventure that nearly resulted in serious injury or worse for the author and several others, experienced climbers all. 

Overall, enjoyable and doesn't overstay its welcome. 

4 Stars - A Very Good Book 


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