I know adventurous homebody is a paradox, but there are those of us indoor people who like a good adventure every once in a while. I like to go hiking, though my longest hike has only been about 6 hours round trip. Camping is great too, especially with good friends and a nice fire going. When it’s wet and chilly outside, as it is most of this season in Vancouver, and I can’t muster up the energy to pull on my rain boots and venture out, I like to read and watch other people doing crazy things like mountaineering and be glad I’m at home with dry feet.
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (1997)
Right now I’m about halfway through this book, and I already know I will never ever attempt to climb Mount Everest- not that I was ever going to, but I’m definitely not going to now. Krakauer tells the story of when he joined an Everest expedition guided by Rob Hall that ended in a severe storm, killing four on Krakauer’s team, including Hall. Krakauer is an accomplished climber and author of Into the Wild, so his wonderful writing paired with vivid descriptions of the climb and explanations of everything that’s involved in a successful expedition make for an immersive book.
Krakauer also touches on the dangers that Sherpas undertake to support Westerners’ expeditions, and raises the question of whether climbing Mount Everest on commercial expeditions is harmful to the region. Sherpas often don’t get the same amount of recognition as foreign climbers, but they do all the same climbing and then some. In July 2022 Sanu Sherpa, a Nepali climber, completed all 14 highest peaks for the second time, the only person to have done them all twice. Lhakpa Sherpa, 48, became the first woman to climb to the summit of Mount Everest 10 times. Kami Rita, a Sherpa Everest guide, has summited Everest 26 times and holds the world record for most summits.
I’ve been reading chapters here and there at breakfast and on my commute, and it definitely puts the small worries of the day into perspective.
2. 14 Peaks : Nothing is Impossible (2021)
Nirmal Purja, or Nims, and his team of Sherpas, including Mingma David Sherpa, Geljen Sherpa, Gesman Tamang, and Lakpa Dendi, climbed all 14 of the world’s 8,000 metre peaks in six months and six days. To put this project in perspective, the first climber to summit all 8,000 metre peaks, Reinhold Messner, took 16 years to accomplish his feat. The previous time record for the 14 peak project was over 7 years, by Kim Chang-ho. This is a massively respected project no matter the time it takes. Nims is memorable for his strong personal character and cheerful but fiercely focused outlook.
3. Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)
I’m a big fan of Jules Verne’s writing, and this is maybe my favourite of his books. A geologist and his nephew decide to travel into the centre of the planet after finding an account of a 16th century explorer, who claimed to have found a route to the Earth’s core. The pair enter the route through Snæfellsjökull, an inactive volcano in Iceland. The book is pure science fiction, but Verne’s science-y reasoning and well-developed characters make it feel almost biographical.
4. The River Runner (2021)
In The River Runner Scott Lindgren kayaks through the four rivers flowing from Mount Kailash in Tibet, attempting to be the first person to complete all four. Lindgren talks about his experience with mental health, finding out he has a brain tumour, and learning to be vulnerable.
In this documentary Lindgren explores the mental side of extreme sports- many people in these kinds of fields have to be incredibly focused and strong to deal with the dangers and losses that are inherent to things like mountaineering or extreme kayaking. That mentality is useful in threatening situations, but it needs to be balanced with vulnerability and support.