John Roskelley inaugurates new library collection

Bill and Harriet Fix have been members of the Whitworth community for over 50 years, and their legacy is now continuing through their generous donation of the William C. Fix Mountaineering Collection to the Harriet Cheney Cowles Library. The extensive collection of biographies, autobiographies and mountaineering memorabilia will be an timely addition to Whitworth culture by contributing to the growing climbing movement in the Pacific Northwest. Bill Fix began serving on the Whitworth Board of Trustees in 1976 and joined the Spokane Mountaineers club since 1956. His contributions to the community go far beyond his donation of the collection. Fix himself is an accomplished mountaineer, and has completed over 23 notable trips in locations as varied as the Himalayas and the Pacific Northwest.

The donation was commemorated with a guest lecture by mountaineer and author John Roskelley on Friday, Sept. 25, followed by a reception in the library where several items from the collection were on display.

Fix’s donated collection included 232 rare, often first-edition, copies of books covering all aspects of the sport of mountaineering. The library also has over 20,000 digital items available in the collection.

“Having little collections that are unique to that place make libraries healthy and unique,” said Amanda Clark, director of the library. “The books Bill has given are like his children. It is a true gift from his heart and his life.”

In his lecture, “From ‘Annapurna’ to ‘Seven Summits,'" Roskelley spoke of the many mountaineering adventures that he has gone on, as well as the many books about said adventures. Since he was 16, the native Spokane resident has embarked on journeys, from the Grand Tetons to Mt. Everest, and seemingly every other mountain range in between.

Along with his lifetime of adventuring, Roskelley has been an active member of the Spokane community. He served as county commissioner and a prominent member of the Spokane Mountaineers club for 50 years.

Roskelley was originally inspired by the novel, “Annapurna,” by Maurice Herzog, which documented his ascent to the summit of Annapurna that, in 1950, led to Herzog’s loss of all his fingers and toes. Despite the obvious physical risks, Roskelley continued to make climbing his life.

“Adventure literature transports you to an adventure and makes you ask yourself, ‘Can I do that?” Roskelley said.

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Roskelley wrote four novels about his lifetime of climbing adventures. He is also a prominent name in other mountaineering literature. Roskelley’s first ascent of “Great Tango Tower” is documented in his climbing-mate’s novel, “In the Throne Room of the Gods,” one of the most popular works of mountaineering literature of its time. This and many other novels by and about Roskelley are available in the library’s new collection.

“These are really cool stories that you don’t have to be into mountaineering to appreciate,” senior Joe Schwalbach said.

This collection is an exciting addition to Whitworth’s library as it will provide both inspiration and information for any students looking to learn a bit about the history of mountaineering or to just read something that is a non-stop adventure.

The books are stored in the library’s special collection, keeping some of the rare ones protected yet still accessible for all students to enjoy for years to come. “You page through ‘em and you find objectives– that’s what books do for you,” Roskelley said.


Melissa Voss

Staff Writer

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