Maurice Isserman’s Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering is a scholarly work that covers the exploits of mountaineers in the United States and Canada from colonial days to 1963, the year that an American team reached the top of Everest.
Everest is a world away from the northeastern United States, the starting point of Isserman’s book. In 1642, Darby Field, a resident of what is now New Hampshire, climbed White Hill, known by local Indians as Agiocochook and by moderns as Mount Washington, the highest mountain in New England.
Others in the Massachusetts Bay Colony thought Field daft for climbing a mountain. It just wasn’t something people did. Isserman writes: “Following his death in 1649, it was remarked that his was a life of ‘merriness marred by insanity.’”