THIN WHITE LINE. By Andy Cave. Pp 230, 45 photos, four maps, 2009. (Arrow Books, London, £8.99)
Andy writes the way he climbs his mountains. Pure and simple, direct, and above all beautifully. Having known him personally, it defies belief that such an unassuming man could be one of the finest contemporary climbers in the world who wields his pen with finesse equaling the swing of his ice axe. Starting off where he had paused in his bestselling debut Learning to Breathe, Andy now takes us on a whirlwind tour to some of the severest alpine challenges across the globe from the high echelons of the Patagonia to the cliffs of Norway and the remotest corners of Alaska.
Following his tragic loss and personal journey through purgatory in the high Himalaya in 1997, Andy question’s his life’s purpose and his relationship with the mountains, which gave him everything as well as took away what he held among his dearest. The initial part of the book describes his inner struggle and his efforts to come to terms with the price that mountains often demand from those who venture into their icy heights. While he is looking for answers to his inner turmoil he comes across a book on the Patagonia Mountains and decides to go for the dreaded Fitzroy, perhaps in a kind of therapeutic-climb. Post Fitzroy he still finds his mind unsettled as to his mountaineering future and follows it up with no-holds-barred all fun and games kind of expeditions to Norway. No high mountains or vertical towers of ice but simple big walls of solid rock overlooking some of the pristine fjords in the world. Initially beaten by the fickle Norwegian weather, Andy completes some superlative climbs with his partner Leo Houlding and lives to tell the tale. Though satiated to an extent he again pines for the heights and solitude of remote mountains and then heads for Alaska, where he chalks up a series of intrepid ascents.
Thin White Line on one hand is a fantastic collection of climbing tales from across the globe peppered with amazing people and human impersonations and on the other it is a mountaineer’s inner journey to find himself in the remote vastness of his soul. Most of us who climb for the sheer pleasure of climbing in remote mountains and are still struggling to find the answers as to ‘why do we climb’, would find a familiar soul in Andy and perhaps find words to their own thoughts. While the others who do know, would discover their own thoughts resonating through the book. Andy climbs and writes from the heart, the only way he knows and the only way a true mountaineer should be. Another masterpiece from a superb alpinist, Thin White Line is a must for any mountaineering aficionado’s collection.