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Climbing the Seven Volcanoes: a search for strength // Book Review

Climbing the Seven Volcanoes: a search for strength // Book Review

What’s on your lockdown reading list? If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a lot of time staring out the window, dreaming of adventures – anything from small trips to the local crag, to climbing 8000-metre peaks. But what will it take to motivate you to actually take that next step once we’re allowed outside?

Try Climbing the Seven Volcanoes: a search for strength by Sophie Cairns.[/vc_column_text]

I know, we’ve all had enough of hearing the wonderful journeys of beautiful Instagram influencers who bravely quit their jobs to travel the world and find themselves, all conveniently funded by daddy’s credit card, but this is not one of those stories. It’s easy to reject the story of the regular person starting out in mountaineering, in favour of the professionals’ unattainable challenges. But don’t pass this one over.

“This wasn’t going to be an adventure ‘experience’ like my other volcano expeditions. This was the real thing.”

Until she hit her thirties, Sophie Cairns had never dreamed of climbing a mountain. Plagued with severe asthma as a child, she never hiked much further than the hills behind her home in Hong Kong. Desperate to climb out of depression following the death of her father, an impulse trip to Kilimanjaro sparked a new passion in Cairns. Climbing the Seven Volcanoes follows Sophie’s journey as she manages the loss of her father whilst taking on a world record attempt of climbing the highest volcano on each continent, all in aid of Cancer Research.

“I’d been told so many times as a child not to do something… that I’d become unreasonably resistant to the idea of giving up”

Throughout the book, Cairns artfully entwines emotional flashbacks with the graphic physical and mental struggle that mountain climbing brings. Each mountain attempt brings a different feeling, alongside a new cast of larger-than-life climbing companions – from the sassy extreme summiteers on Mt Sidley, to the over-enthusiastic punters in Tanzania.

Each chapter reminds you not only of the physical strain extreme mountaineering takes, but also that anybody can attempt it if they put their mind to it. Sophie’s shows us that climbing high altitude peaks is hugely challenging, but often it isn’t the physical strain which holds us back, but the psychological.

“Our desire to bear witness to the life of someone who no longer exists is so innate that I had never questioned it.”

Climbing the Seven Volcanoes takes us on a journey through grief as Cairns learns to cope with her new reality without her father and with the mountains. Cairns created a page turner, where the reader is desperate to find out whether she makes it to her world record or whether the next mountain might be too much. 

So, you won’t see me climbing Mt Damavand any time soon, but I’m still inspired. I fancy giving mountain climbing a go. Who’s with me?

Find out more about Sophie Cairns and her expeditions on her website: www.sevenvolcanoes.com

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