CLAWING FOR THE STARS:
I wish to acknowledge those who have helped make this site possible.
Alex Currie, my grandson, gave me the idea to provide Google Earth tours for each chapter. At first, I had no idea what an Earth tour was. Once I learned more, I recognized their importance for the book and the site. He also asked me to write the book!
Guillaume Ceyrac, a French citizen whom I met in 2012 when he dropped me an e-mail note about his climbs in the Andes. When I encountered problems with the tours, he provided advice and encouragement. He also offered valuable suggestions about website and video presentations. Please visit his photo and video site here to enjoy his adventures. To see his video of his ascent of the three summits of Tres Cruces, please visit this page in the "Watch a Movie" section on the website.
Rich Termini, owner of Home Video Productions in Pleasanton, California, edited my rather rustic camcorder files and made them viewable.
An aging former Catholic seminarian, ex-Marine and businessman, debut author Villarreal recounts solo climbing the high Andes.
The author has navigated Andean super-peaks again and again to discover anew the extreme challenges of high-altitude climbing alone in the deserted mountain vastness of the Andes. Possessed of an indefatigable positivity, Villarreal details many of his middle-age journeys in this book written for his young grandson, Alex, so that the young boy will come to understand his grandfather's unique life and his decision to leave the pleasures of home behind and engage in the rigors of high-altitude mountaineering. He carefully plans and executes these risky mountain assaults knowing that one misstep may lead to his death. Villarreal repeatedly reflects on his reasons for choosing this path not taken by most others. "Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains," Villarreal writes, "Yet they pass their daily lives without wondering in the least about themselves." He hungers to fulfill his individual destiny, but he has a hard time explaining the motives that push him to continue these terrifying ascents well into his 60s. His fascination for mountains remains an enigma, the author says repeatedly. "It reminds me of Moby Dick," he says, "And I pray it doesn't drag me under as the whale did Ahab." Told in straightforward first-person prose, the book sometimes delivers exceptional descriptive passages that capture mountain moments, such as the alpine glow as it fades from the Andean summits: "A crooked shaft of flaming fire breaks the black of the distant horizon and illuminates the sky with glittering flame." Linked to the author's website, which features many of his pictures from his various journeys, the book stands on its own as a tribute to the author's life of solitary adventure and individual courage.
An often riveting account that details the interior life of the solo mountaineer as well as his adventures scaling some of the highest and most treacherous peaks in the world.
Unsolicited review by a reader:
"While we were on vacation this past week at the beach I had opportunity to read your book. It almost ruined my vacation as I could hardly put it down once I started. You have a definite writers flair and your style is something like a cross between Hemingway in style and Michener in details. Anyway, I found it fascinating and learned enough about high altitude climbing that I doubt I would have made a successful climber. You had me thinking at almost every turn you were going to die or incur great calamity from a fall or cerebral edema (a term I have never heard).
I hope your grandson was thrilled with the book and I hope you will if not already take him to see the great peaks of the Andes. I certainly hope the book sells well and sends you up the mountain again. I almost think the book should become a required reading for anyone who even thinks they want to be a high altitude climber."