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April 2012 Issue
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Wind from a distant summit

The story of New Zealand’s leading woman mountaineer
By Pat Deavoll
Craig Potton Publishing $40.00

In many areas of life, the achievements of women often don’t get the same plaudits as men’s. When 16-year-old Deavoll set out on her mission to become a mountaineer this lack of recognition and sexism was even more prevalent than it is today. Mountaineering was a man’s game, as Deavoll explains in her book, and she was a young, unsure-of-herself country girl taking on the Southern Alps with the big boys.

Her book starts by eloquently capturing this experience of being a shy girl climbing with the lads and her nagging sense of self-doubt. To be fair, however, the book also shows there were good Kiwi blokes who took her seriously and encouraged her during her early days.

It’s surprising to read about Deavoll’s honest account of her ongoing struggle with depression, on the one hand, and her never give up attitude and climbing achievements on the other. Like many driven athletes, it’s often this tendency for being too hard on themselves that propels them to achieve greatness. When Deavoll wasn’t climbing she slumped and when she did pull herself out of it, a sense of low self-esteem ate at her confidence. Her book offers these and other insightful accounts of her internal dialogue and there’s lessons for all climbers and serious trampers in this. Deavoll stuck at it and is now one of the best climbers in New Zealand history.

Deavoll is also a journalist, so she knows how to keep readers interested, how to write simply and clearly and how to introduce the various people she has climbed with throughout her long and outstanding career. I particularly enjoyed her chapter on the Karakoram region of Pakistan. Not only does Deavoll outline her climbing experiences in here, but she also provides, as in other chapters, a personal feeling for the local culture and its history. She touches on the troubled country’s recent history and the difficulties for people who disagree with conservative attitudes towards women.

In 2009, to add to her long list of first ascents on mountains around the world, Deavoll became the first person to climb Karim Sar (6180m) in Pakistan.