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The Invention of Mountaineering on America’s Highest Peak

Joy Logan

Publication Year: 2011

Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas and the tallest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas. Located in the Andes Mountains of Argentina, near the city of Mendoza, Aconcagua has been luring European mountain climbers since 1883, when a German ge-ologist nearly reached the mountain’s summit. (A Swiss climber finally made the ascent in 1897.) In this fascinating book, Joy Logan explores the many impacts of mountaineering’s “discovery” of Aconcagua including its effect on how local indigenous history is understood. The consequences still resonate today, as the region has become a magnet for “adventure travelers,” with about 7,000 climbers and trekkers from all over the world visiting each year.

Having done fieldwork on Aconcagua for six years, Logan offers keen insights into how the invention of mountaineering in the nineteenth century—and adventure tourism a century later—have both shaped and been shaped by local and global cultural narratives. She examines the roles and functions of mountain guides, especially in regard to notions of gender and nation; re-reads the mountaineering stories forged by explorers, scientists, tourism officials, and the gear industry; and considers the distinctions between foreign and Argentine climbers (some of whom are celebrities in their own right).

In Logan’s revealing analysis, Aconcagua is emblematic of the tensions produced by modernity, nation-building, tourism development, and re-ethnification. The evolution of mountain climbing on Aconcagua registers seismic shifts in attitudes toward adventure, the national, and the global. With an eye for detail and a flair for description, Logan invites her readers onto the mountain and into the lives it supports.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Front Matter

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List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

First and foremost I am especially grateful to all the andinistas of Mendoza, the Aconcagua guardaparques, the doctors, guides, base-camp workers, arrieros (muleteers), the Hotel Refugio staff, and the international expeditionary members who generously offered their time and cooperation during this study....

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Introduction: Recuperating Bodies, Recovering Texts

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pp. 1-16

“Where are they?” was the question I felt compelled to ask my guide, Pablo, when I finally stood before the 3,000-meter vertical wall of the majestic South Face of Mount Aconcagua. I had heard the story many times before and had been moved by the memorial in the Andinista Cemetery, located near the...

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1. “They All Want to Be Indiana Jones”: Travel Literature and Modernity

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pp. 17-39

Argentina’s central Andes Mountains of Mendoza province have formed part of a corridor long associated with heroic adventure. In European travel writing of the early nineteenth century, according to Mary Louise Pratt (2008), the crossing of the Argentine Andes figured into a “canonical heroic paradigm for the Englishman’s South American journey,” a journey charted by an arrival in...

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2. No Longer the Lettered City: San Martín and the Touristic Imagination

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pp. 40-62

For many Argentines, one of the consequences of the economic crisis at the beginning of the new millennium was the collapse of a collective sense of national identity. How indeed was one to be Argentine in this southernmost nation, envisioned at the turn of the twentieth century as one of the ten most modern...

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3. Indigenous Identities: The Mummy, the Mountaineer, and Re-ethnification

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pp. 63-88

The Mendoza poster cited above pointedly situates Aconcagua for mountaineers journeying from afar by pinpointing both its distance from Argentine and Chilean cities and from Anglo-European tradition.1 Highlighting the Incan ties to Aconcagua rather than some other mountaineering fact to sell adventure rearticulates...

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4. Fashioning Adventure: Creating Mountaineering in the 1980s

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pp. 89-113

In the 1986 mountaineering narrative, Seven Summits, the chapter about Aconcagua concludes at the top: “For at that moment, Frank Wells and Dick Bass were the two highest men standing on any point of land in the western hemisphere of the world. . . . ‘One down and six to go,’ Dick rejoined, and then he let...

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5. Local Heroics: Militarisms and Democratizations

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pp. 114-139

In 1934 when the four-man Polish team returned to Mendoza from making the first summit of Aconcagua from the east, across what is now known as the Polish Glacier, they refused to talk to the local Mendocino newspaper, Los Andes, about their scientific expedition.1 Instead, they issued a statement indicating that all data about the route and their ascent would be sent back to Europe....

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6. Matters of Life and Death: Mountain Guides, Nation, and Memorialization

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pp. 140-165

The responsibilities of mountain guiding sometimes concern very real issues of safety and health, and most clients who hire guides expect that their outlay of capital will safeguard their lives on the mountain. It is with some irony, then, at least to me, that one of the sites to visit most often suggested by Mendocino...

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7. The Dream Weaver: Performing Gender, Adventure, and Mountaineering

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pp. 166-195

Mountaineering on Aconcagua is always about movement, the constant going up and coming down the mountain of people, mules, information, gossip, and materials. It is also about the flow of capitalism articulated through the narrative of adventure. How do these movements and flows constitute and plot Aconcagua? How do the differing natures of these bodies in motion reconfigure the ideological, affective, and economic understandings of mountaineering...

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8. Plaza de Mulas: Memory, Musealization, and the Global

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pp. 196-220

The Normal Route is the most traveled and least technical way to the summit of Aconcagua, and approximately 80 percent of all expeditioners choose to follow it.1 On a daily basis it is traversed by adventurers from all over the world who converge for a few days of rest and acclimatization, in Plaza de Mulas,...

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Conclusion: Final Debriefs

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pp. 221-225

The globalization of Aconcagua has evolved out of the growth of the adventure tourism market, the commodification of adventure, and the influential nature of North America therein, all of which condition the way mountaineering is experienced and how cultures interact on the mountain. Mendocino presence...


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pp. 227-234

Works Cited

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pp. 235-244


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pp. 245-251

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780816502318
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529506

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011