Reading the North

Minus 148˚

Art Davidson (The Mountaineers Books, Third Edition, $19.95)

The blurb: In 1967, eight men attempted the first winter ascent of Mt. McKinley, now known as Denali. They faced winds in excess of 150 miles per hour and temperatures more than 50 below zero. The windchill temperature reached -148. Three team members reached the summit only to be trapped at more than 18,000 feet by a six-day storm. In an ice cave less than 1,000 feet below, their teammates waited helplessly until all hope ran out, and the three above were left for dead.

Excerpt: At the other end of the rope Gregg began gasping. The rope stopped moving. In the excitement Gregg had tied the hauling line around his waist with a slipknot. When he had pulled, the knot had tightened, squeezing the breath out of him. He had fallen onto the snow and nearly fainted, but was trying desperately to undo the knot and regain his breath.

The rope began moving again. We hoisted Farine up 10 or 15 feet before we had to stop to rest; then came another haul, and another rest. Looking down into the darkness of the crevasse, I could see Farine's body coming out of the shadows. Further down, the yellow glow of Dave's headlamp reflected against the black ice. I could hear his jumars clicking and sliding on the rope as he ascended the fixed line.

Farine reached the top of the hole, but there he became snagged on the sharp lip of the crevasse. While Pirate and Gregg pulled on the rope, I grabbed Farine under his shoulders to try to draw him up over the edge. Within seconds he slid out onto the flat snow. Quickly I loosened the hauling rope around his huge chest. His face was bloody; the lower lip was torn.

George had arrived and, running his hands firmly over Farine's limbs, thought he felt some broken arm and wrist bones. I couldn't detect any breathing, but he might be alive. We slipped Farine into a sleeping bag to save all the warmth left in his body. His eyes were open, staring blankly.

George couldn't find a pulse.

Kneeling over Farine, I wiped some of the blood and mucus away from his mouth with my finger. I began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. While Gregg held Farine's nostrils shut I breathed deeply into him. There was a rasping noise. The air passage sounded blocked. I pressed my mouth harder to Farine's so no air would escape; I breathed and breathed and breathed.

Basic Food: A Theory of Nutrition

Harold Kalve, Sitka resident (Xlibris, $24.99; e-book, $3.99)

The blurb: Harold Kalve's early training and work was in accounting from which he migrated, after 15 years, to the food industry as a fisherman and processor. Working his boat out of Seward, his catch would be processed and distributed at his shop in Anchorage. With 30 years in the food industry, he is now retired and living in Sitka.

Excerpt: The Europeans often to fifteen thousand years ago lived on animals fed on grasses, including the grain common to the area. When the population grew, the need for more food pushed people into innovations such as herding and later farming. By ten thousand years ago, the needs of people in some areas could not be met with the available wild resources and farming was necessary. It started in the near east when droughts caused shortages of the wild grains and the animals the people had depended on succumbed to loss of forage as forest covered the previously frozen tundra and deep winter snows covered the remaining grasses. In planting seeds to insure an adequate food harvest, people continued a tradition of innovation to meet new challenges. The new methods spread in time to all areas of the inhabited world. Once started, farming spurred a massive change in people's diet. Food substitutes had now been discovered.

I am assuming that prefarming diets were the most natural and healthy for people in Europe. Thousands of generations survived on and assimilated to the food available. This included primarily meats hunted or scavenged, fish from streams or lakes, fruits and berries were available late in the Neolithic age after the ice sheets had receded, and some vegetables could be scratched out of the ground when starvation threatened. People had limited ability to store or preserve food.

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News