Panamerican Peaks by Thomas Laussermair is the story of the journey of a lifetime. In 2009-2010, Laussermair cycled from Alaska down through Canada and the US, and then through Central and South America. On the way he climbed 16 mountains, one per country (although technically two in the US as he did Denali in Alaska and then Mount Whitney). He categorises his journey by the elements of nature he is passing through, i.e. Heat, Pampa, Volcano.
Laussermair is not a native English speaker, although he is highly proficient in the language, and unfortunately this was the first thing I noticed about his writing. It is particularly evident in the introduction, where you can almost hear an accent in his quirky grammar. His word order is at times almost Yoda-like. Strangely, this is much less evident in the main chapters of Panamerican Peaks, as if these chapters were proof-read by an English speaker.
Laussermair’s account is difficult to really get into. When he is not recounting a specific story or experience, it comes across as a bit vague and rambling, and he isn’t even completely clear on his present location. However, once he gets into a story it becomes much more coherant. His tale of his ascent of Aconcagua is well told and easy to follow, but lacks that spark that makes a travel book really special and appealing to all readers. On the other hand, I suspect his writing wouldn’t be detailed enough for hardened adventurers, again thinking of the Aconcagua account – although interesting to me, I think it might come across as lightweight for experienced mountaineers, who would probably look for a lot more detail and technical information.
I was reading the PDF sample of Panamerican Peaks, and this is really Laussermair’s main problem. The PDF sample gives you the introduction, one complete chapter and one incomplete chapter (I actually don’t know if he made it to the summit of Aconcagua), along with some of the epilogue. The full book is only available on iPad, which seems to be to be incredibly restrictive – most people don’t have iPads. There are a lot of interactive features in the book which are clearly aimed at iPad users, but the text could be made available in other formats – the PDF sample included lots of wonderful photos, so the book as a whole would work very well in that format.
Panamerican Peaks sounds like a fantastic adventure, but Laussermair’s account is a little dry. Although I think he is restrictive in only offering the full book on iPad, I’m not that bothered that I can’t read the whole thing. His writing serves the purpose of telling his story, but it doesn’t light a spark in you. The photos however, are excellent and really help to illustrate the beauty of where he visited.
Please note that this review is based on the sample copy of Panamerican Peaks, not the full version. The full version can be downloaded here.