Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sharper Edges, by Andy de Klerk

I wanted to learn more about what in the world happened to the 1996 South African Everest expedition, so I located a copy of Andy de Klerk's biography, Sharper Edges. I was disappointed in the information I sought, but I found a great book none the less. De Klerk was one of three climbing members that resigned from the expedition at Lobuche after series of events that made De Klerk, Andy Hackland, and Ed February seriously question the competence of the expedition's leader, Ian Woodall. Of the 200 pages in this work, the expedition, perhaps rightly so, gets a paragraph. De Klerk diplomatically put the expedition's falling apart up to personal differences, but he says that Ed February was considerably more disappointed and is still bitter that Woodall used the tide of goodwill and nationalism in the new South Africa for his own ends. Other Everest references include De Klerk's expedition to Gasherbrum IV with Everest climbers Steve Swenson, Charley Mace, and Steve House, as well as a climbing trip to Cameroon with Everester Greg Child.

Everest aside, this is a wonderful read. De Klerk turned down a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford to study philosophy to follow his passion for climbing. It seems to me, based on this book, that he's traded a formal education in philosophy for an applied one. Throughout the book, De Klerk considers the inner aspects of climbing, including motivations, emotions, and passions. A phrase that particularly resonated with me was "there really is nothing to find on the summit of a mountain other than yourself," though this by any means is not the deepest philosophical statement in the book. Sharper Edges is an episodic take on De Klerk's life, with chapters focusing on different important parts of his life, whether close friends like Ed February, climbs, or family members. Because he was a consistent climbing partner for a good part of De Klerk's life, Ed February gets a lot of coverage in this book. De Klerk climbs around the world, and the book includes many climbs in his home turf of South Africa, as well as in Mali, Cameroon, Alaska, Canada, the Karakorum, Patagonia, and the Alps. Additionally, De Klerk is a BASE jumper, and he writes about both the inner game of BASE jumping as well as many of his jumps. If you can find a copy, read this book.

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