The Bond - Simon McCartney
I've avoided reading any books about mountaineering for a while. Impressive though the feats are I began to find them following a pattern. It's no fault of the authors, but there are only so many ways one can describe the difficulties of climbing a near vertical snow mushroom. The Bond, however, kept cropping up on my radar. A few folk mentioned it and said how good it was, then it went and won the Boardman Tasker award last year. So I took the plunge.
Right from page one I was engaged. Simon McCartney was a cutting edge alpinist during the 1970s who, until The Bond was written, was either unknown to the mountaineering world, or had most likely been forgotten by those who did clock him at the time. He climbed at the very cutting edge of his ability and went from one epic to another, with some very notable summits / routes to his name. His last route was an epic to almost end all epics and he effectively stopped climbing in order to avoid his inevitable death. Nearly forty years later a series of coincidences resulted in Simon reengaging with the world of climbing, and writing this book.
It has all the characteristics necessary for a best seller. It's very well written - the initial pages describing his current life in Hong King are immediately absorbing and there's not a snow mushroom in sight!. It is incredibly well researched, drawing from diaries of many of the other climbers who he crossed paths with. Despite the fact that he essentially describes a series of epic ascents which escalate in seriousness, it is never in the slightest bit dull and does not feel repetitive. On the contrary you know that it is building to a climax and it becomes something of a page turner. And yes, there are snow mushrooms! What really stands out is his ability to describe the emotions of climbing such routes, both before, during, and most importantly, afterwards. Forty years after his climbing career abruptly ended, the circumstances that opened the door on his former life reveal that the emotions are just as strong having lain dormant all that time. By his own admission, with the passing of those years he has been able to reconnect with some a very painful episode in his life and is all the better for it.
It's both a story of epic endurance, of what the human body is capable of (quite staggering), but a love story to climbing, mountaineering and the characters who make it such a unique way of life. Go read it.
The Bond is published by Vertebrate Publishing