The Last of His Kind

The Last of His Kind

The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America's Boldest Mountaineer

By David Roberts

William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780061560941, 352pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2009


American Brad Washburn had an impact on his protÉgÉs and imitators as profound as that of any other adventurer in the twentieth century. Unquestionably regarded as the greatest mountaineer in Alaskan history and as one of the finest mountain photographers of all time, Washburn transformed American attitudes toward wilderness and revolutionized the art of mountaineering and exploration in the great ranges. In The Last of His Kind, National Geographic Adventure contributing editor David Roberts goes beyond conventional biography to reveal the essence of this man through the prism of his extraordinary exploits from New England to Chamonix, the Himalaya to the Yukon.

Washburn's remarkable achievements—including nine first ascents of North American peaks—would stamp him not only as one of a kind, but as one of a kind they don't make anymore. Born June 7, 1910, to a Boston Brahmin family whose roots trace back to the Mayflower, this highly intelligent, impatient, and stubborn iconoclast published books, made a monumental first ascent in the French Alps that would become a touchstone in mountaineering history, and lectured on his adventures—including an address to the National Geographic Society—while still in his teens. In 1935, at the age of twenty-four, while others were turning their attention to the Himalaya, the Harvard-educated Washburn led a three-month journey across what was then the largest remaining unexplored territory in North America—the 6,400 square miles of glaciers and mountains in the frozen heart of Alaska's Saint Elias Range.

In addition to his prowess as a mountaineer and photographer, Washburn was also a renowned surveyor and cartographer, producing maps of little-known terrain—the Grand Canyon, Mt. McKinley, and Mt. Everest—that surpassed those that came before, and several of which remain the standard. He was also a scientist who would take a regional natural-history museum and transform it into one of the outstanding teaching institutions of its kind in the world.

Roberts introduces the family, teachers, friends, colleagues, and rivals who would play important roles in this legendary man's experiences, and re-creates his enthralling journeys to some of the most remote and beautifully wild places on earth. An exciting narrative of mountain climbing in the twentieth century, The Last of His Kind brings into focus Washburn's deeds in the context of the history of mountaineering, and provides a fascinating look at an amazing culture and the influential icon who shaped it.

About the Author

David Roberts is an avid climber and the author of more than twenty books, including The Mountain of My Fear, which was named on National Geographic Adventure's list of the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time. His articles have appeared in National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal, and Smithsonian, among other publications. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.