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Insights into kiwi climbing psyche

August 1, 2010

Ascending Taranaki, 1968 CCby PhillipC

I’ve just finished reading Where the Mountains Throw Their Dice by New Zealand climber Paul Hersey. It’s about his exploration into why he and his mates climb, despite a good friend dying through climbing and a summer of particularly high climbing deaths. It’s a thoughtful book and I enjoy the way he interweaves his climbing with insights and interviews.

Though I felt near the end he ends up romantising climbing a bit too much for my liking. Maybe he didn’t mean to do it but the bit about climbers being a special breed, slightly removed from society because they are able to escape the humdrum of normal life and strip it away to it’s most basic, kind of grates with me. He says: “Climbing allows that ferocity (of a mid-Canterbury nor-wester), that return to the perpetual adolescence of forever pursuing dreams. The enthusiastic escape from a ‘normal’ life is taken whole-heartedly, and the search for days of total absoprtion lead to a solace that can’t be replicated.” I see his point but I think lots of disciplines, not only other outdoor pursuits, but also art and science would also argue that theirs is a special existence.

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