Book Review- Where You’ll Find Me; Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova

Where You'll Find Me- Book Review Kate Matrosova

Last week I caught a program on NHPR’s Exchange centered on this high profile 2015 White Mountain climber fatality. My connection to this story started with a Mountain Rescue Service call-out on the late afternoon of February 15th, 2015 when I was driving home from teaching an AIARE Avalanche Course. My commitments to the on-going course would prevent me from responding to the call-out but I would follow the rescue attempt carefully over the next 48 hours and shortly after post this blog post about the outcome and my initial thoughts.

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This tragedy would go on to capture the attention of the national media and local interest and has now been brought back into the limelight with the publication of this book, Where You’ll Find Me; Risk Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova.

I received the book from Amazon this past Monday and by Thursday I had carved out enough time to read it cover to cover. I want to dive into a bit more detail about this take on the well publicized story rather than just say this is a “must read”.

The author, Ty Gagne, points out this particular rescue attempt gathered a lot of media attention for multiple reasons. First there was the real-time media engagement of an active search and rescue attempt occurring during a well forecasted “perfect storm.” Second was the victim seemed to not fit the typical “flat-lander” stereo-type that causes some in the north country to quickly cast blame on those who end up floundering a bit in the mountains. She was equipped with high end gear and clothing and multiple electronic safety devices… so what went wrong?

In an eloquent and respectful way Ty manages to walk us through Kate’s back-ground, planning, and finally execution of what would be Kate’s last mountain adventure. Having summited a few of the tallest peaks in the world many perceived she had a lot of experience, however through careful retrospection it becomes clear that her previous mountain achievements were mostly guided ventures, allowing someone with more experience and local knowledge to make critical go/no go decisions. For all intents and purposes it appears this was her first non-guided high risk adventure…yet as Ty documents she was quite meticulous about her planning.

Where You'll Find Me Book Review Kate Mastosova
Kate’s route plan with bailout options highlighted

Much of this book however was not actually about Kate but about those who work tirelessly on search and rescue. Some are paid state employees while most are volunteers from all walks of life. Ty is able to describe multiple timelines from these heroes and their own struggles while Kate’s epic unfolds in a clear and engaging manner from start to sad finish. This re-telling from multiple perspectives is well done but he goes beyond simply just saying what happened when and to whom…

Throughout the book Ty instructs the reader on the incredibly complex topic of “risk management”. This should be easy for Ty as his career is in corporate risk management, but the way he converts high risk corporate strategy to what we do in the mountains is quite amicable. He draws upon lessons from multiple walks of life from high stakes corporate decisions to the most current recreational avalanche safety and mitigation theory. The reader is left with no choice but to think more intentionally about how they manage their own risk whether planning a solo hike in the White Mountains or a day cragging with friends, we are all left with the reminder that nature is indifferent in her response to our often very personal decisions.

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Summary

Ty has done an excellent job researching and presenting this tragic event in a very respectful yet honest manner. For those who have read and enjoyed the acclaimed “Not Without Peril” this is another “must read” for your library. We can all learn something from Kate’s story and Ty’s re-telling of it is a powerful and fitting tribute to her final mountain adventure.


Resources

Find this book locally at the White Mountain Cafe in Gorham, NH, White Birch Books in North Conway, NH, at SOLO in Conway, NH, and the White Mountain Wanderer in Lincoln, NH, International Mountain Equipment in North Conway, or buy it on Amazon here.

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Donate directly to Mountain Rescue Service (MRS)

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Top Ten Climbing Instruction Books

I recently saw a fellow guide post a picture of his climbing book library and thought it might be helpful to share some of my favorite books in my own personal collection. Early on in my climbing career I simply could not read enough about climbing. Not only did I read every book I could find on the subject I also read the two popular climbing magazines of the day religiously. Here’s a quick run-down of my top 10 climbing books.

Top Ten Climbing Instruction Books


Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 9th Edition

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 9th Edition

One of the first two books I purchased when I started climbing in 1994. Since then it has been updated 5 times and is currently in its 9th Edition. This book is often referred to as “the Bible of climbing” and while it is not the only book you’ll ever want it is encyclopedic in nature. The scope of the book is massive and it’s an excellent resource to start building your basic skills. This one belongs in every climber’s collection!


How to Rock Climb!

How to Rock Climb!
How to Rock Climb!

The second book that set me on a direct path to becoming a climber was this iconic piece by John Long, an author I would go on to read just about every book he ever published. John’s way of mixing humor with instruction made reading this book cover to cover multiple times really enjoyable.


Climbing Anchors

Climbing Anchors
Climbing Anchors

An essential skill that tends to mystify many new climbers is that of building quality anchors for climbing. This greatly illustrated book came in clutch during my formative years and helped lay a foundation for advanced understanding during further training and practice.


Advanced Rock Climbing: Expert Skills and Techniques

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The first book I am mentioning that is targeted to an intermediate to advanced audience. This book assumes you’ve been climbing for awhile and have the types of skills covered in the first three books pretty dialed. Great prose and inspirational photography in this one!


Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher

Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher
Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher

This was the first book that really started improving my efficiency in the mountains. While the first three books I’ve listed laid the foundation this work started me thinking more about optimizing systems and streamlining concepts to move farther and faster in the mountains.


Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, High, and Fast

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Another eye-opener that challenged a lot of conventional wisdom from previous works I still remember how this book really helped me update my clothing systems and speed up my transitions allowing to move more quickly and more comfortably in all types of winter conditions.


Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations

Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations
Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations

Another essential skill that can seem over-whelming to learn, this book is one of the best on the topic I have read. Many of the systems described can be quite complicated and occasionally there is a newer and often simpler way to execute some of techniques described in this book so I’d strongly encourage newer climbers combine a day or three of qualified instruction from a certified guide to go along with this book.


Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide To Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue

Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide To Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue
Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide To Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue

The authors take a complex topic then gracefully break it down with easy to follow explanations and light-hearted illustrations. A great primer before or after taking a glacier skills course.


Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual

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For those contemplating getting into the guiding world this is a must have before you take your AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course. Studying this text before the course will really help you get the most out of the program and having it for reference after will help commit skills learned to long-term memory.


The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference–From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue

The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference--From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue
The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference–From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue

The newest and arguably the most relevant addition to my library, this book is absolutely a must-have for aspiring and current guides and instructors. The authors assume the reader already has a fair amount of understanding (likely gleamed from the above books, previous instruction, and experience) but any climber will find skills in this book that can improve their climbing even if guiding is not the end-goal.


Did I miss one that would be in your top-ten? Let me know in the comments below! You can also purchase any of these books on Amazon by clicking the book below!


Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 8th Edition

How to Rock Climb!

Climbing Anchors

Advanced Rock Climbing: Expert Skills and Techniques

Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher

Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, High, and Fast

Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations

Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide To Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue

Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual

The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference–From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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