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What Are You Reading? Tunbridge Teen Wright Frost Digs Into ‘Mountain Literature’

  • Wright Frost, 16, of Tunbridge, founder of the Upper Valley Mountain Literature Society, has led the group through the reading of three books on mountaineering to date - "Touching the Void," by Joe Simpson, "Into Thin Air," by Jon Krakauer, and "Buried in the Sky," by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan. Frost plans to climb Tocllaraju, a 19,797 foot peak in Peru, with his father this year. Frost leads the UVMLS meeting at the Tunbridge Public Library in Tunbridge, Vt., Thursday, April 27, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Wright Frost, 16, of Tunbridge, discusses the book "Buried in the Sky," an account of the deaths of 11 climbers on K2 in 2008, during a meeting of the Upper Valley Mountain Literature Society at the Tunbridge Public Library in Tunbridge, Vt., Thursday, April 26, 2018. The group, started by Frost, focuses on books about mountaineering. Frost's mother Amy is at right, and Todd Tyson, of Tunbridge, is in the foreground.(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, May 03, 2018

A few hours before leading his Upper Valley Mountain Literature Society in a discussion of Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day, Wright Frost last week retraced the steps that led him to his yen for books about peril and pain at high altitude.

The 16-year-old Tunbridge resident suspects it began with a backpacking trip six summers ago, over the Bigelow Range, a rugged massif of three peaks of 4,000 feet or more in mosquito-infested west-central Maine.

“I had a miserable experience on that one,” the Hanover High School junior said during an interview between classes. “But after a few days, I thought it was fun, looking back on it.”

Ever since, Frost can’t get enough of accounts of expeditions gone awry or worse, that made for compelling yarns in retrospect. While he didn’t pinpoint exactly why during last week’s conversation, he seems to find them a good way to envision how he might react on his own outdoor adventures, which range from day-trip climbs of steep cliffs and icefalls in the Green or the White mountains to ascents of glaciated mountains on the Pacific coast.

Take Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer’s prize-winning post-mortem of the 1996 Himalayan expedition during which eight climbers died on Mount Everest and Krakauer himself barely survived.

“I’ve read it three or four times in all,” said Frost, whose book group chose it for their March reading at Tunbridge Public Library. The Mountain Literature Society held its first meeting in February.

He also fell for Touching the Void, veteran climber Joe Simpson’s revisit of his narrow, agonizing escape from a climbing accident that left him alone, with a broken leg, in the crevasse of a glacier in the Peruvian Andes.

Somewhat more upbeat, or at least mixing moments of exhilaration with episodes of peril, was French climbing legend Lionel Terray’s memoir of post-World War II outings, Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna.

Frost said that he started the Mountain Literature Society as a way to share his interest in the topic and, through the give and take with other readers, “to help me unpack” his own reactions to the adventures.

“With a few exceptions, a lot of people feel you have to be a climber to like climbing books,” he said, adding that so far, most of the people in the Mountain Literature Society range in age from 35 to 80.

“I’m the youngest by far,” he said. “The youth element is somewhat lacking so far. I’d like to change that.”

At whatever age one joins the Mountain Literature Society, Frost is offering, for the next discussion in June, a choice of the following on his blog:

No Picnic on Mount Kenya, about three Italian prisoners of war who escape and climb Africa’s second-highest peak during World War II.

Annapurna, Maurice Herzog’s harrowing recollection of the first ascent of an 8,000-meter peak in Pakistan’s lofty Karakoram Range in 1948.

Minus 148 Degrees, by Alaskan climbing legend Art Davidson, which Frost described last week as “another book about pure suffering that’s just crazy.”

Even the novels that Frost reads between nonfiction stories tend to propel their protagonists on pilgrimages through hell. Favorites include J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and much of the work of 19th-century British author Thomas Hardy.

When he’s not reading, you can find Frost testing himself outdoors. Two summers ago, he and a friend hiked the 270-mile Long Trail, along the spine of the Green Mountains from Vermont’s border with Massachusetts to the border with Canada. Even more, he enjoys day trips for rock or ice climbing in the Green and the White mountains, in preparation for mountain expeditions. Over the past several years, his ascents have included 10,790-foot Mount Baker and 9,131-foot Mount Shuksan in Washington state’s North Cascades range.

Next on his own reading list is Himalayan climber Doug Scott’s The Ogre: Biography of a Mountain and the Dramatic Story of the First Ascent — as if Frost needs any inspiration for his next big climb, a 19,797-foot peak in the Andes.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I think I have a good sense of what is safe,” he said. “I’m not ready to do something super-remote or unknown. Not yet.”

The Upper Valley Mountain Literature Society meets about once a month at Tunbridge Public Library. To learn more, including the date of the next gathering, visit uvmls.blogspot.com.

To recommend Upper Valley residents, from any walk of life and line of work, for an interview about what they’re reading, email David Corriveau at dcorriveau@vnews.com or call 603-727-3304.