By Satyabrata Dam
The subtitle of the book is a misnomer since Pat is one of the worlds top all round alpinists (man or woman) today redefining boundaries and breaking barriers of mind body and soul in the vertical arena of high mountains. Of here climbing prowess, iron will and reckless passion the mountaineering world is aware but who would have imagined that she wielded equal finesse and grace with her pen.Im not sure if writing this book was a redefining period in Pat’s life but for hte reader it would surely be a redefining period as we climb sheer virgin faces of rock and ice with Pat, often fragile broken and on the verge of collapse and all angled at gravity and death-defining dimensions. Was i glad that i was only accompanying Pat vicariously sometimes inside her rucksack, sometimes riding her helmet, peering down while walls of glistening ice into the rugged wastelands of Alaska, Canadian Rockies, Karakoram, Himalaya, Tibet, Central Asia and her very own Southern Alps where she learnt her ropes and holds.
Pat Deavoll was raised on a sheep farm in North Canterbury and educated in Christhchurch.She began mountaineering in her late teens and after a break where she also became one of New Zealands leading whitewater kayakers,has continued to climb at the elite level for over three decades. She worked as an outdoor instructor for many years before retraining as a journalist. Currently she works as the Activities and Events Co-ordinator for the New Zealand Alpine Club.
Pat leads us through compelling story telling on the journey of her life from the countryside following her passion for the outdoors; developing from a shy wobbly teenager into the woman she is today. We learn the elements that such high caliber extreme alpinists are made up of and what keeps them going. Her story is as much about her personal voyage of self discovery as it is an inspirational tale of grit and determination, failures and self doubt and above all am embodiment of mans ‘never say die’ spirit. Pat’s climbs are incredible and ludicrously steep and dangerous ice and rock faces around the world. And she climbs not to prove anything to anyone else or for glory or for any misguided ego; she does is simply since she loves and finds her true self up within those lofty pinnacles were even eagles fear to fly. This is a journey of self-discovery as much as a nail biting thriller that would inspire and motivate anyone from any field of work to go that extra length and to take that one step to achieve his ultimate goal.
What makes Pat’s book a cut above such genre books by other elite alpinists are the chapters devoted to such ethical and moral issues as gender bias, forging a fulfilling partnership, bonding and finding friends in the most unlikely places, styles of climbing. Everest mortalities and usage of oxygen etc. She literally shakes the hornets nest in matters few would dare to discuss publicly. She collects opinions and views from some of the worlds top climbers on such issues and adds her own; giving us an indepth understanding of a world few have the privilege or courage to explore.
While talking about others Pat is equally courageous to elaborate on here own demons, both real and imaginary; her trials and tribulations, battle with clinical depression, sacrifices she did and continues to do; and this makes her and the book a human story of unparalleled courage, tenacity and honesty. Her historical essays are well researched and she has added her wit to showcase the old through a fresh coat of interpretation and storytelling nuances.
Pat is a personal friend and i have had the rare priviledge of sharing her rope on numerous occasions and so far i have only had admiration and respect for her climbing portfolio and regard for her as a human with all qualities of being human. On a bad ass climb, on a sheer face of hard ice, on a sustained long vertical pitch or an a dark stormy night on the verge of certain death I would if i could have Pat to be my partner and if not, then certainly her book by my side. When you are down and out and on the edge you need her passion, her enthusiasm and her climbing skills to see through your ordeal.
Whoever you may be,even if you hate climbing, this book is for you and for your kids and everyone you love since this is an eternal tale of man’s hunger for the unknown and the indomitable spirit of the human race. Let Pat be your guide and lead you through the adventure of life; you will never be the same again.