Rudi climbs the Citadel, and treacherous, legendary mountain that took his father's life. Rudi is a spry, slim boy who lives in Switzerland at the foot of the magnificent Alps. He constantly studies the Citadel, the last peak unconquered by man. He longs for a chance to climb it but his mother forbids him. There is more than motherly concern involved; her husband came closer than anyone else to conquering the Citadel, but died in the attempt. Rudi's mother will not her son follow in his footsteps, but he wants nothing more than to finish what his father started.
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One day while he is ditching work to climb, Rudi finds a climber trapped in a crevasse and rescues him. The climber turns out to be the world renowned John Winter, who admires Rudi's courage and resourcefulness. John Winter comes to the village later and begs Rudi's mother and Uncle Franz, a skilled guide, to let Rudi come on a climbing expedition as a porter. After a long debate, Rudi is allowed to go.
Rudi, Franz, and Winter climb a fairly easy peak and study the Citadel intently. Rudi, wanting to impress, tries to find a faster alternate route but instead strands himself in a precarious position. Disgusted at his nephew's stupidity, Uncle Franz endangers his own life to save Rudi's, and they all return safely. Needless to say, once back at the village, Rudi is grounded.
Winter plans an expedition to the Citadel with Emil Saxo, an arrogant windbag from a rival village. Rudi joins them, lying that he received permission. Franz finds out and tracks them down, intending to put Rudi in his place once and for all, but instead joins the expedition, rather than let Saxo call him a coward. Begging for a chance, Rudi is allowed to climb with them for a while.
Winter sustains a serious head injury in an avalanche, but the party continues its slow ascent. When Franz tells Rudi that he must turn back, Rudi decides to explore on his own. He finds the place where his father died, and realizes that he has found a way to the top of the Citadel. He tells the others and is allowed to lead the way.
After days of laborious climbing, the men are closer than any human has ever been to the summit. They can almost taste the victory. However, in the night Saxo sneaks off, intending to be the first to the top. Rudi follows him but can only watch as Saxo falls and breaks his leg.
Rudi is faced with an agonizing decision; conquer the legendary mountain and fulfill his father's legacy, or help Saxo and give up his dream. Rudi chooses to help Saxo and they begin the arduous journey down the mountain.
From afar, the villagers watch the climbers' progress and cheer as Winter and Franz reach the summit. They return home hailed as heroes. Winter then surprises everyone and says that it is Rudi's mountain; they planted his banner and it waves triumphantly at the top.
Best part of story, including ending:
The perseverance and skill of the men trying to conquer the dangerous mountain provides a dual picture of man's frailty and strength.
Best scene in story:
Rudi's crippled friend is helping him practice climbing. He has Rudi haul him up the mountain, yelling instructions at him, like the Old Man of the Sea. Rudi had never thought about this aspect of climbing.
Opinion about the main character:
Rudi is rash and disobedient. True, his boldness pays off when he discovers the route past the impass, but he could have killed himself easily because he does not listen to others' advice.