Article Index

The best of Swaramandal is tucked away at the end of the book, almost as a surprise. Here, we meet Jeff Schwenn and Kris Koprowski. After what seems like a dusk gathering around the pages, fading memories and an end to youthful climbing, Jeff and Kris infuse us with crazy hope. Climbing joys live, sweeping up from new and capable spirits, spirits less somber and more fresh than any portrayed earlier. Kris puts the giants and superegos to shame with simple spoken words: "Dear Pat, I am an admirer of yours. I am 13 years old and think you are the best free climber in the world. ... I can climb 5.5 or maybe 5.6 and maybe someday I could climb with you." Jeff, about the same age as Kris and an asthmatic, is as unpretentious as the washed out photo of him framed to cut off his right ear. He says, "Before meeting Pat, I hear he is egotistical. After getting to know him, however, I find—that he is! But what is wrong with someone realizing he is good at something?" About the Umph Slot, "I also wiggle up the Umph Slot (five-ten), but it isn't really 5.10 because I am able to squeeze through it." Pat has truly found a gem in the rough. Again, Jeff Schwenn: "My mother tells me to be careful. . . . Kris, Pete and I scale a 35-foot wall, Armadillo's Ass, and christen ourselves the Armadillos. ... It is a warm and perfect day, and I am feeling happy with myself . . . for sticking it out. I think about Armadillos and laugh. But, I better not blow my own head up. Might end up like Ament. He tells me he's going to write a book: 'How to Win Friends and Influence People.' I thank God for Ament's influence when I am rappelling off the Maiden and am so scared I almost choke. . . . As fall arrives, several of my friends begin to feel and demonstrate a kind of resentment towards me. Maybe they think I have abandoned them for fame and fortune. Ament is like the Bobby Fischer of climbing and can stir things up. But he is the best friend I have ever had. I forgive my other friends and hope they will forgive me—someday. I wish each of them and all the Armadillos could do T2 with Pat. . . ."

Swaramandal will be received much like Pat Ament himself. Some will say the book is great, others will say it is awful; some will sneer and some will cry. But for those inclined to listen, Swaramandal sings out the sounds of many a climber's inner world.

This review reprinted from Mountain Gazette with permission.

American Alpine Journal, 1974