Book review – Feeding The Rat: A Climber’s Life on the Edge

Cover of the book Feeding The RatHaving a 10 day trip in Mexico is awesome. A few books were required between drinking, swimming and exploring. I was fortunate to have acquired a couple over the Christmas holidays. This was one of them.

The book, Feeding the Rat, is written by English poet, writer and critic, Al Alvarez.

The term “feeding the rat” refers to a phrase Anthoine uses to describe the mixture of pleasure, fear and pain that is fed in the climber, a feeding he can’t get enough of.

Written beautifully, Feeding the Rat, gives the reader an intimate portrait of Mo Anthoine. It provides the reader with a visceral sense of being on a variety of climbs, and much sound and accessible philosophical matter to think about. Mo Anthoine was considered to be a cautious climber who valued safety, travel and the companionship of friends more than the actual summit which really hit a chord with me as my values are quite similar. The book portrays some of the best stories of adventure and personal experiences allowing climbing enthusiasts and book junkies to feed their own rat.

Mo was often criticized for being overly cautious. His response to those who criticized his climbing technique was simple: “No mountain is worth a mate.” Mo never lost a member of his team on expeditions carried out in over 20 years of his time.

I read this book in 2 days. Matt read it cover to cover on the plane ride over. This book draws you in, allows you to befriend Mo and ultimately leaves you full of emotional and a sudden need for adventure. A poignant journey.

Anyone who plays the stunt double for Rambo is wicked. Mo was wicked. His accomplishments and his outlook on life makes me want to be a better person. If only I could have met the guy. A top read and a must for anyone who is looking to read an intimate encounter about an amazing individual.

I give this book two thumbs up, five stars and a high five.

Barry Blanchard’s Recommended Reading

Cover of Conquistadors of the Useless bookWhile we were sitting around in Bow Hut on our last evening, our head guide Barry suggested a few books that we might like to read to satisfy our craving for alpine action when we’re stuck indoors. Here’s the list. Many thanks to Chris Dunne for having the presence of mind to write it down and pass it on to the rest of the group. Those with a star next to them are considered definitive, unmissable, you MUST read this.

Novels

  • Conquistadors of the Useless – Lionel Terray *
  • Feeding the Rat – Al Alvarez *
  • No Picnic on Mount Kenya – Felice Benuzzi
  • The White Spider – Heinrich Harrer
  • Seven Years in Tibet – Heinrich Harrer
  • The Seventh Grade – Reinhold Messner
  • Solo Faces – James Salter
  • Karakoram – Fosco Maraini
  • The Shining Mountain – Peter Boardman
  • Great Days – Walter Bonatti
  • On the Heights – Walter Bonatti
  • Pushing the Limits – Chic Scott

Textbooks

  • Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills – The Mountaineers *
  • Climbing Ice – Yvon Chouinard

So far we’ve only read The Freedom of the Hills (which is so well known amongst alpine types that it’s often abbreviated to just TFOTH) but I’m sure we’ll end up getting stuck into a few more through the winter. Maybe we’ll even get round to writing some book reviews.