Exceptional Mountains: A Cultural History of the Pacific Northwest Volcanoes

Exceptional Mountains: A Cultural History of the Pacific Northwest Volcanoes

weltzien-mtsBy O. Alan Weltzien.  University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, NE, 2016.

Over the past 150 years, people have flocked to the Pacific Northwest in increasing numbers, in part due to the region’s beauty and one of its most exceptional features: volcanoes. This segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire has shaped not only the physical landscape of the region but also the psychological landscape, and with it the narratives we compose about ourselves. Exceptional Mountains is a cultural history of the Northwest volcanoes and the environmental impact of outdoor recreation in this region. It probes the relationship between these volcanoes and regional identity, particularly in the era of mass mountaineering and population growth in the Northwest.

O. Alan Weltzien demonstrates how mountaineering is but one conspicuous example of the outdoor recreation industry’s unrestricted and problematic growth. He explores the implications of our assumptions that there are no limits to our outdoor recreation habits and that access to the highest mountains should include amenities for affluent consumers. Each chapter probes the mountain-based regional ethos and the concomitant sense of privilege and entitlement from different vantages to illuminate the consumerist mind-set as a reductive—and deeply problematic—version of experience and identity in and around some of the nation’s most striking mountains.

Read an excerpt of the book (PDF)

O. Alan Weltzien is a professor of English at the University of Montana–Western. He has published many books, including a memoir and three books of poetry, and is the editor of The Norman Maclean Reader.