A Long Way Up Essay - Critical Context

E. G. Valens

Critical Context

Written in response to tremendous public interest in the story of Kinmont, this biography answers the questions that the public asked about her personal life and rehabilitation. Many people were anxious to know more about her life before the accident and to know what was behind the pictures in Life. As the project progressed, Valens found himself telling more than the story of a skiing accident. The book became a detailed odyssey through a young woman’s life, including her silly teenage times, her most demanding athletic accomplishments, and her grueling years of rehabilitation, requiring both physical and mental readjustments. In the course of this description, Valens presents an important lesson in life for young readers. Kinmont had a full life in January, 1955, including the potential for a future of athletic fame. A miscalculation in balance and the angle of her fall, however, changed her life. The importance of her story is that she took full advantage of her remaining physical abilities and of her mind in order to create a life of promise as a student and then as a teacher.

In the figure of Kinmont, Valens presents a role model who is important for both the disabled and the athletic in society. This is a story of common lives and extraordinary events. It serves as a reminder that life is a risk and that, when adventure turns to catastrophe, there is still an opportunity to create a worthwhile life. In telling this story without emotionalism, Valens presents the factual account of the transition of a young woman from triumph to tragedy and of her return to society as an important, contributing citizen. Kinmont’s achievements show that the human spirit is undeterred even in the most tragic of circumstances.