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ON THIN ICE: ALPINE CLIMBS IN THE AMERICAS, ASIA AND THE HIMALAYAS Mick Fowler 2005 1st UK edition Fine Multiple copies available
By Fowler, Mick, Foreword by Chris Bonington
Price: $49.95

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UK, 2005, 1st UK edition. 224 pp, 24 pages of color photos.  Hardcover with dust jacket. Fine condition. 

Mick Fowler - Britain's most successful exponent of lightweight mountaineering in the greater ranges, describes his international climbs - an important book recording several historic ascents.

Climbs include Aksu in Kyrgistan, Taweche in Nepal, Changabang in India, Arwa Tower in India, Mount Kennedy in Alaska and Siguniang in China - the latter received international acclaim and was awarded the American 'Golden Piton' and the French 'Piolet d'Or'. 

FROM THE LONDON TIMES BOOK REVIEW:

You would think, reading Mick Fowlers second volume of climbing memoirs, that he was the ultimate bumbling incompetent. He works, a bespectacled pen-pusher, for the Inland Revenue. He is, he tells us in On Thin Ice, painfully unfit. He cant carry heavy loads. He struggles to acclimatize at altitude and he is hopeless in the heat. If something can go wrong, it invariably does.

He has managed, nonetheless, to pack more mountaineering success into his annual holidays than virtually any full-time mountaineer in the history of the sport.

Fowlers specialty is the lightweight Himalayan ascent. A couple of decades back, the expedition was the norm. A large team of climbers, assisted by an army of Sherpas, would engineer the route to the summit. Ropes would be fixed and camps organized at stages up the mountain. Fowler climbs, typically, in a team of two. He sets off into the unknown, finds, if he is lucky, a crevasse to crawl into for the night, survives the inevitable avalanches and storms, and days later makes it to the top.

The margin for error is minimal; the commitment required total. This is mountaineering at its purest and most demanding. Descending from a mountain called Changabang, Fowlers companion, Steve Sustad, slips and pulls him down a snow slope towards a 1,000m drop. Miraculously, Fowler survives with only minor injuries. Sustad breaks four ribs in several places. They meet up with two other climbers and struggle on. 

One of these climbers is swept to his death in an avalanche. The nightmare descent continues. At one point, writes Fowler, we all ended up hanging free from a peg and a wire in the middle of a blank 100-metre wall. On day 13 of the climb he catches himself falling asleep draped over his ice axes as, in a state of terminal exhaustion, he fights his way up the col which leads to safety.

Was it worth it? In bald terms, Fowler comments, the answer has to be no; nothing is worth the life of a friend. But, he continues, his friend died doing what he loved. He admits that the risks he took on this climb were too high for a family man with two children, but his love of the mountains is such that giving up was never an option.

Fowler is not the sort of man to analyze that love. He refers to it several times as an urge that simply cannot be ignored, and in terms of introspective insight, that is that. What matters is maximum holiday pleasure, which means new places, adventure, challenges, uncertainty, interest, ethnic action and wild, preferably mountainous, terrain. Readers with a taste for self-deprecating irony who share Fowlers enthusiasms should buy On Thin Ice tomorrow. It is the funniest and most gripping mountaineering book to be published for years.



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