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Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure [Paperback]

Patricia Ellis Herr
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 3 2012
When Trish Herr became pregnant with her first daughter, Alex, she and her husband, Hugh, vowed to instill a bond with nature in their children. By the time Alex was five, her over-the-top energy levels led Trish to believe that her very young daughter might be capable of hiking adult-sized mountains.

In Up, Trish recounts their always exhilarating--and sometimes harrowing--adventures climbing all forty-eight of New Hampshire's highest mountains.  Readers will delight in the expansive views and fresh air that only peakbaggers are afforded, and will laugh out loud as Trish urges herself to "mother up" when she and Alex meet an ornery--and alarmingly bold--spruce grouse on the trail. This is, at heart, a resonant, emotionally honest account of a mother's determination to foster independence and fearlessness in her daughter, to teach her "that small doesn't necessarily mean weak; that girls can be strong; and that big, bold things are possible."

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Review

"Charming [and] uplifting...a keen feminist fable for brave girls."
--Publishers Weekly

"Herr’s prose...captures the joy of being on the trail...More than anything, the narrative serves as an apt landscape for a mother to reflect on her choices and on her struggle with how to explain life’s unfairness (sexism, cruelty of nature, distrust of strangers) to her daughter while continuing to nurture the innocent joys of fleeting childhood. Warmly ruminative and honestly observant."
--Kirkus

"As someone who has struggled to keep up with Alex on a pair of New Hampshire 4,000ers in winter, I can testify first- hand to what a remarkable hiker and person she is. Trish Herr's charming memoir distills the lessons she learned on the trail with her precocious daughter. Up offers a welcome corrective to the Tiger Mother syndrome."
--David Roberts, author of Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer

“As a parent of two kids myself, I'm always working for more quality time with cell phones and computers turned off. Some of my best times have been kayaking, hiking, and skiing with my family. It's the stuff life is built on. So I love this mother-daughter tale of sharing something beautiful and profound together and building upon those shared experiences. It's what every family should emulate. The delightful stories put a smile on my face as they brought back memories of my daughter when she was Alex's age. And it warmed my heart as they reached each summit together.” 
— Erik Weihenmayer, author of Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man’s Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See and The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness

"What is more striking than the breathtaking vistas they are rewarded with at the top — including double rainbows — are the mountains of emotions Herr expresses as she observes her daughter growing, not just in hiking skills, but in wisdom about people, learning lessons useful in life: Joy, love, and amazement." -- BOSTON GLOBE

"An entertaining read....UP perfectly captures the roller coaster ride of parenting." -- CONCORD MONITOR

"Inspiring and enjoyable." -- MAINE SUNDAY TELEGRAM

"Herr’s account is really half hiking reference manual and half meditation on how to instill independence and confidence at a young age—an odd and oddly compelling combination." -- BOOKPAGE

About the Author

PATRICIA ELLIS HERR holds a master's degree in biological anthropology from Harvard University and homeschools her two daughters. She lives in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.


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5.0 out of 5 stars great summer gem :) May 26 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Absolutely wonderful book! Charming, inspiring, and uplifting. A pure joy to read, and to top it off, i am now adding to my bucket list, that i want to climb one (or more) of the 4000ks! :)
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  74 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feisty, but somewhat over-thought May 9 2012
By Dienne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I basically enjoyed Patricia Ellis Herr's account of her year spent hiking all forty-eight 4,000+ peaks in the state of New Hampshire with her five-year-old daughter Alex (and sometimes three-year-old Sage as well). Herr and her daughters are clearly plucky, confident and strong young ladies who not only bit off an ambitious project but doggedly chewed it to the finish. The story is easy reading and engaging enough that I cared about Alex and cheered for her when she achieved her goal by summiting 4,802 foot Mount Mousilauke, although I never doubted along the way that she could do it.

That said, there are some elements of Herr's writing style and tone that set me a bit on edge and spoiled the reading experience for me. Primarily my concern is that she focuses too much on finding Messages in each experience and hitting her readers over the head with them rather than just letting the story - and Alex's bold personality - unfold naturally and allowing readers to take their own messages from it. The result is oftentimes clunky, self-conscious, over-thought and occasionally rather defensive.

One of the best illustrations of this is the chapter entitled "To Get Where She Wants to Go, a Girl Must Punch Through Rotting Snow". This hike, Alex's thirtieth peak, takes place in early spring, a time when the snow on the mountains is melting and mushy, making the going quite rough as one frequently plunges thigh-deep into the slushy stuff. Along the way Alex says, "Jacob told me I can't be good at math because I'm a girl." Now, call me simplistic, but this seems like a no-brainer to me for someone whose daughter has hiked twenty-nine mountains: "Yeah, and you're not supposed to be good at climbing mountains either because you're a girl. So what do you think about such silly ideas?" But instead, Herr takes the next thirteen pages to anguish over how to handle this and ruminate on all the injustices of gender discrimination and the progress - and lack thereof - of the feminist movement.

Herr's first mistake is to point out to Alex that she is two grade levels ahead of Jacob in math. That information, even if true, is not only not Alex's business, but, more importantly, irrelevant to the point at hand. Alex's and Jacob's relative performance is immaterial to the issue of whether or not boys are better at math. Even if Alex were behind Jacob in math, it wouldn't' be proof that boys are better, just as Alex being ahead of Jacob doesn't mean that girls are better. Her kid doesn't have to be the best, or even better than another child, to be just as good as a boy.

Herr then speculates on how Jacob got into making such comments, because his own mother, a friend of Herr's, doesn't tolerate "sexist comments", so he must have learned it from some other boy. Herr decides it must be the influence of a new boy who saw Alex and "sniffed, "I don't like girls," turned on his heals, and stalked off." Well, that settles it then, let's blame him. Alex, of course, was hurt by this experience of "gender discrimination." Oh, please, little boys not wanting to play with little girls is not "gender discrimination" any more than the reverse is. It's just fairly typical early childhood behavior to want only same-gender friends. Of course, being excluded hurts under any circumstances and I don't mean to minimize that. But I think Herr could have discussed that without the whole history of the American woman.

My other issue is the fact that Herr seems utterly unaware of just how privileged she is. In the introduction, she encourages all of us to pursue our big, grand and daring dreams and, "don't automatically shrug and assume that you're too young, too old, too weak, too busy, too poor, too frazzled, or too small." Good points certainly, but they sound a little hollow from someone who has had the luxury to chose to be a stay at home mom and the education and resources to do it well enough to provide her daughters (and herself) with deeply enriching experiences. Someone who can afford a vacation home in New Hampshire and a regular home in Massachusetts. Someone who can afford over $8,000 just for winter hiking and camping gear, nevermind all the other gear. Someone who has the time, money and ability to travel not only all over New Hampshire, but over the whole U.S., including Hawaii. While many of us may dream of taking our daughters (and sons) on grand adventures, few of us have the resources Herr has been blessed with, and such obstacles cannot be lightly dismissed with a breezy injunction to, "learn, persevere, sweat!"

Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy for Ms. Herr and her ability to provide such amazing experiences for her daughters. I'm sure that Alex and Sage will grow up to be strong-willed, independent-minded women who will make their marks on the world and probably make it a better place. I wish that every child would have the kind of childhood they are having in which their ideas are taken seriously and even their wildest dreams can come true. I salute Ms. Herr for having the courage to take the road less traveled and daring to be different. But the message that everyone can do it if they just try and work hard enough is a bit too simplistic and, frankly, cheesy. Of course we can all make great strides in life if we set our minds to it, but we all start at different places, so we might not all be able to make the same goals.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful enterprise, but too much extra baggage May 25 2012
By T.M. Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
OK, I'll be one of the few that are not going to offer a glowing endorsement of this bizarre travel/adventure book. (But stay with me, it ends on a surprising up-note).

I'll cede the obvious here, which is that the notion of taking one's child on a series of challenging outdoor adventure hikes is a wonderful thing: Wonderful one-on-one time with the child. Wonderful physical exercise and accomplishment. Wonderful learning experience and confidence builder. Wonderful exposure to the beauty of creation.

I decided to read this book after having just read Joe Glickman's, To the Top and am considering some peak climbing projects with my young grandsons. But the beauty of the whole package as I worked through Up was increasingly ruined for me as I was repeatedly distracted by the author's "baggage".

To be fair, Patricia Herr, or rather Patricia Ellis Herr, has accomplished some great things here. The personal climbing achievements with her daughter Alex, and the permanent gift of the memories and confidence will remain. And recording it all in book form. Nice accomplishment. Nice that Herr is financially privileged to have the resources to do all of this (vacation home and travel budget, homeschooler with open schedule, rock-solid wage earner husband). Wealth honestly earned is always deserved, so I have no problem there. But . . .

I guess I am just a different kind of person than Herr. When I give thanks to a diety, it's always to the God of the bible, not to "Mother Earth". That grated on me. When I drop an M&M on the trail, I'll just leave it for the squirrels (or pick it up and eat it) rather than collect it for packing out and eventual transfer to the local landfill. It's just food. Let it lay. (Uh, so what does one do with "bodily waste materials"? Collect and pack that out too?). I still drive old-fashioned American branded cars (why did she need to share with me that she brakes for animals in her Honda Civic). Each to his own, but don't preach at me (subliminally or otherwise). When hiking, I LOVE a cold Big Mac. Herr prefers ORGANIC energy bars. (Interestingly, I can just burn the Big Mac wrapper, but a foil organic energy bar wrapper will have to be packed out). And I am very proud of my children and enjoy talking about them . . . but I try to refrain from excessively boring other parents with the recounting of endless minutia and constant parental doting, thus respecting their own preference for their own children. (Newsflash - almost all 5 year olds have lots of energy and are inquisitive). When on outings (hiking, foreign travel, motorcycling) I prefer minimalism - taking along as little "stuff" as possible. Herr seems to prefer packing along as much as she can phyically carry. Reading between the lines, I believe it is a manifestation of fear and insecurity. Lots of fear and insecurity. It comes through clearly.

These above opinions were all formed BEFORE I reached the chapter, "To Get Where She Wants to Go, a Girl Must Punch Through Rotting Snow". Before I quote directly from that chapter, allow me to set the stage here: I am an adult male. Educated. Bright. Fairminded. Father of two daughters that each own their own businesses. I opened this book for guidance on mentoring my grandsons via peak hiking/climbing. That the author here was female was of no consequence to me. I considered her an equal as a person, and superior to me in her knowledge of strenuous hiking with children. Yet in the subject chapter where the author is having a trailside counseling session with her six year old daughter, she counsels the young girl, and I quote, "If a man tells you that you're not allowed to do something because your a woman, then you can have the government make him do the right thing. Grown men can lose their jobs or be made to pay a large fine if they don't allow women the same rights as men . . . ." I suggest that Herr stereotypes and underrates men, just as she overrates the efficacy our government. There is much such tripe in this book. I also suggest that Herr is exposed as a feminist extremist, as much misguided as the "sexists" that seem to haunt her thought life. She appears thoroughly indoctrinated and apparently lets this baggage define who she is. It ruins the book.

In closing, I started this book eagerly, with a genuine interest in the topic material. My attitude was strongly positive. Unfortunately, I grew to actually dislike the author . . . a lot. However, I stuck with and finished the book, persistent in my quest for hiking knowledge while the reading experience morphed into one of those, "I hate this so much I'm enjoying it" things. Then, I found a rather pleasant surprise near the end. In the closing chapters, "Enjoy the Journey While It Lasts" (the completion of the 48 peak 4000 foot checklist with daughter Alex), and "Keep Moving Forward" (the author ruminates on her whole family, her own role, and the significance of all of this peak climbing), a new Patricia Herr seems to reveal herself. Kind and appreciative of others. Finally acknowledging some of her own limtations and longings. A genuine loving mother and wife, and brave rather than scared as she shares some choices she has made that do indeed represent independent thinking. Even wise in many respects. I wish that would have been the tone from the start.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Late to the game? Bring your kid! May 20 2012
By Kelly Sottelbaum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
There sure are a lot of hiking stories/memoirs getting published lately. This one brings something new to the table: a child, while, unfortunately not the main "character," is the main focus of the story. That is, the daughter in the story is the one trying to achieve the goal of hiking the 4000ft summits. While this has a likelihood of greatly appealing to those of us with kids, the book itself is lacking in a very important facet.

So mom and daughter start hiking, and soon daughter decides she wants to hike all the peaks. OK, interesting enough. The book discusses the mom's feelings of how things are going, how great mom thinks her daughter is, how mom has to explain to daughter about bigotry in the world, how mom "casually suggests" how advanced daughter is for her age, how mom...wait a minute! I wanted to hear more about the DAUGHTER. You know, the 5 year old that mom has to defend when other hikers thinks she's crazy for bringing her out. Yeah, the same 5 year old that mom has to watch out for when weather turns bad, and that mom...

Granted, a book written by a 6 or 7 year old isn't going to be great, but the insight into what the kid is thinking is so thin that, to me, the book basically turned into a "My daughter is great, and here is proof that she's great, and I'm a great mother." Roughly the equivalent of talking to any stranger about their kids.

Perhaps my hopes were inflated after having read AWOL on the Appalachian Trail and Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which are about vastly different things from each other and this book, but all have the whole nature aspect in common and are much stronger titles and provide a more interesting storyline than "Up."

Too much mom and not enough daughter for me...might want to look into other similar books before getting too involved with this one. (Of course, if you're a mom wanting to do something special with your daughter, chances are you're going to end up with this one.)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun book, but... May 27 2012
By aaa-Pam - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Some books stymie me when I try to put together a review. "UP" was one of them. Though I enjoyed it there were things about the book that would make me hesitate to recommend it without adding a bunch of 'you should knows'. YSKs are points I feel obligated make in an effort to make sure that people won't waste their time with a book that's not going to please them. Only problem was, I couldn't readily identify what these points were, and thus I was put off.

The YOU SHOULD KNOWS. I did figure out what might 'urk' and there is the list...
--GUSHING praise of her first child.
--Presentation of the other child as an also-ran.
--Justification of homeschooling. (Really, is that still needed. To me it seemed like an unwanted diversion in a book about mom and daughter peak-bagging?)
--Justification about quitting high-status job to do something more important, i.e. raise wonderful daughters. (Honestly, people who are so confused as to think their worth is dependent upon the type of career/job they have aren't likely to ever 'get it'. And the author, being a rather brilliant woman, should have realized that and forgiven them their ignorance.)

And now that I've got this list in print before me, I'd guess I'd say that my main hesitation in recommending the book is the fact that it has some unnecessary baggage. It may have been cathartic for the author, but I'm not sure that it was something I needed to be privy to.

BUT, it's not all bad. This is an enjoyable book. And here are the POSITIVES!
--Ms. Herr is a talented writer. I would definitely pick up and check out any other book she authors.
--The second half of UP has some nice climbing descriptions.
--The book promotes homeschooling and presents it in a good light.
--Ms. Herr's husband's story is fascinating.
--The book promotes the outdoor life and exercise, and the value of persistence.

So ultimately, the story about peak bagging with (or without) a child was a great idea and Ms. Herr is well suited to write it. If you look at the YOU SHOULD KNOWS and none of those things are on your 'issues' list, then I think you should pick up this book and give it a try. It's a fun, quick read.

Pam T~
mom of regular kids
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cute Tale, But Why Really Was It Written? June 1 2012
By Lois Lain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Little people can do big things. That, in a sentence, seems to be Patricia Ellis Herr's theme behind "Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure." The book is a memoir that traces author and her five-year-old daughter, Alex, as they attempt to join the Four Thousand Footer Club, ascending all 40-some of New Hampshire's 4K-plus peaks.

Herr makes it clear that it's all driven by Alex, and if the way the little girl is portrayed is accurate, then I buy that. Alex seems to have been born with an old soul, an abundance of energy, and no concept of the idea of limits. Very cool!

But I'm less sure that the idea behind the book is as altruistic. It wavers between parental advice ("...I think that children are for more capable than most adults realize. Sometimes they just need to be reminded of their own strength."), feminist treatise ("...Nothing much happens to boys who say sexist things to girls.") and love letter ("...Love for my child overwhelms me; it threatens to flatten me. I am so lucky to have this incredible, strong, intelligent little girl in my life!"). And all of that isn't bad, per se, but it does muddy the water a bit, as do the not-infrequent sidebarring into "Why I Never Finished my Harvard PhD" and "Why I'm a Stay-At-Home Mom." I honestly didn't care that much if she were a rocket scientist with a string of initials after her name or if she were a high school dropout. It's Alex who's the interesting one (sorry, Mom!).

The book succeeds when the focus is kept on the idea of mother and child accomplishing something together, and equipping your kids to reach their dreams. It falters when it takes on a preachy tone ("...Couldn't I be a proper modern-day woman, stick my babies in day care, and stay the course?"). The judgmental tone, intended or not, will alienate some readers unnecessarily. I had to bite my tongue more than a few times.

All the same, the book was well-written and an enjoyable, quick read. It definitely made me question the limits I place on my kids. And while I won't be joining the 4K club, I may tackle a hike or two this summer.
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