Mountain Climbing as American Transcendental Pilgrimage

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Since 1920, climbers known as 14ers peakbaggers have climbed all fifty-four 14ers. Their personal narratives and literature indicate ties to American Transcendentalism, a religion promoted by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Personification of Colorado 14ers is achieved through archival, diachronic, and narrative approaches within a qualitative methodology. Two unique models developed by the author, the Transect Model and the Transcendental Ziggurat Model, assist in data retrieval and analysis. It identifies spatial, demographic, and narrative data of peakbaggers. A diachronic approach primarily focuses on Colorado mountaineering during 1912 to 1998 and the life span of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882. The Colorado 14ers peakbaggers, by exhibiting Transcendental belief and pilgrimage activity, create a cultural geography supporting American Transcendental pilgrimage.


“The Transcendental philosophy has a surprising capacity to be reborn with succeeding generations….The relationship of the transcendental experience or approach to the near spiritual quest of Colorado peakbaggers to know the landscape in its most awe-inspiring aspects, has been sympathetically and carefully investigated by Dennis Tobin. His background both as a professional horticulturalist and cultural geographer provides him with a unique orientation to understand and to interpret their relationship. In a wider sense, his perception opens our minds to the larger perspective of environmental appreciation motivating a much larger population than the peakbaggers….Tobin’s concept of peakbagging as pilgrimage presents an explanatory device for understanding the Transcendental philosophy in a modern-day guise. Hopefully, it will mark the path for others to follow, investigating other aspects of the modern world’s approach to Nature.” – Allen G. Noble

“Pilgrimage scholarship has made only limited headway in examining the nature and process of journeys that are not confined to the stereotypical religious pilgrimages….Dennis Tobin’s book attempts to extend pilgrimage research beyond its strictly religious moorings into human experiences through intimate interaction with the environment….Based on qualitative analysis, and personal field experience, Dr. Tobin’s work will encourage scholars to explore the richness of pilgrimage beyond its traditional religious confines. Climbers, nature lovers, hikers, and Peakbaggers should find this study by a kindred spirit both informative and readable.” – Surinder M. Bhardwaj, Kent State University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface; Foreword
Introduction: Inquiry; Personification; Portraiture
1. Literature Review: Geography; Nature; Pilgrimage
2. Qualitative Methodology: Data; Diachrony; Scale; Narration; Transection
3. Place: Colorado 14ers; Pilgrimage Landscape; Poetic Landscape; Scale; Spatial Symbolism
4. Club Organization and Individual Members: Colorado Mountain Club; Peakbagging
5. Who Climbs? Time; Age; Extra; Career; Times
6. Climbers or Pilgrims? Commodity; Beauty; Language; Discipline; Transcendental; Sentimental; Funeral; Communitas; Sport; Intrinsic; Analysis
7. Transcendental Pilgrimage: Religion; Reiteration; Transcendental Ziggurat Model
8. Summary of Conclusions
Appendices: The 54 Fourteeners of Colorado; Colorado Mountain Club Mission Statement; Transect Model; Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bibliographies; Index

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