Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Andrew Greig, Writer/Sometimes Mountaineer

I'm reading Andrew Greig's , Kingdoms of Experience , a delicious book about a poet making his second trip to the Himalaya with a team of experienced climbers.

Let me go back a little though ... his first book, Summit Fever , is one of my favourite books. Perhaps the blurb on the back says it best: When poet Andrew Greig was asked by near-legendary Scottish mountaineer Mal Duff to join his ascent of the Mustagh Tower in the Karakoram Himalayas, he had a poor head for heights and no climbing experience whatsoever.
The result is this unique book.

The world and mind of the climber has fascinated me for years, I started a book and the half-completed manuscript made its way through two publishing meetings ... a rare occurence that first publisher told me before telling me that they weren't sure they would find a big enough market back in those days.

Greig, poet and writer went a long way towards becoming a climber in that first book. I devoured it only to reach a point near the end where he wrote: 'So what's it all about? Why do climbers climb, why did I do it, what does it mean?'

And I thought 'Yes yes yes, tell me so I never have to go there!'

He continued, 'Somehow I no longer want to talk or think about it. I'd begun climbing eager to analyse my companions, myself and climbing; now I'm reluctant to draw any conclusions at all. There is no clear answer to these questions, and even if there were it would not be very important. It is in the experience itself that the value lies. I can only really talk about it with other climbers, and with them there is no need to explain.'

And so it was ...

Reading 'Kingdoms of Experience', it's 1985 and Andrew's back in the Himalaya, involved in an attempt on the then unclimbed north-east ridge of Everest.

He wrote something I wanted to note somewhere: 'I'm climbing on Everest and just being alive is being in love.'

Next page and he writes: 'It comes to me that this is what I've always sought - an experience that would absorb me entirely.'

Perhaps he's answered my question now.

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