High Risks – Climbing to Extinction – Brian Hall

I found this an exceptional book. It took me back to the “ Golden Years” of Alpine and Himalayan Mountaineers.
The death toll of these climbers pushing their ambitions and the complexity of their lives is an eye opener. He also deals with the effects of injury and depression rarely spoken about in elite sporting circles.


The author Brian Hall writes with a wonderful honesty of this period. The effect on the families left behind as the pursuit of mountaineering excellence drives the characters on. There are a few thoughts from some families of their loss after an accident. This is powerful in its own right.

He also speaks about the effects of depression, alcohol and drug abuse a deadly combination for many at the time.
Yet this period opened the Himalayas to new challenges big changes in tactics to “light and fast” explaining that the less time you spend in the danger zone the safer it is.
The author comments on the sad era we have now of commercial expeditions taking many who can pay for the experience and the mess it leaves on these incredible places.


To get into the mindset and read Brian Halls thoughts is an incredible insight.
You must read this book there are many life lessons for even Armchair mountaineers.

A great read

David Whalley

It goes into great detail of these crazy days when they were pushing the limits at the time. It’s a whose who of climbers and a few that we know little about. These were wild times of climbing hard, partying and being singularly minded in pursuit of climbing at extreme levels. It is amazing how the author explains the different characters. Their flaws strengths and how he and others cope with death on the mountain. Also how injury and depression add the loss of friends from cancer effects us all.

These points are rarely discussed but in between every adventure success and failure there is a price paid. There are very moving tales each one is different but it helps explain the mind of a extreme mountaineer.

The book takes you all over the world from Everest, South America, The Alps in summer and winter the Uk and winter climbing in Scotland. Each route has a story sadly a few in tragedy and the Books Title “ Climbing to Extinction is so sadly apt.

Over the years I have also lost many friend’s in the mountains. Mostly young Mick on the Pic Badile, Big Al soling the Matterhorn North Face. Paul in the Cairngorms, Mark and Neil on Lochnagar, Martin in India, Andy on Ben Hope and Ted in the Dolomites. To name a few. I have also had to break the news to loved ones on occasions get their bodies home. I had to take time out from rescues after it all caught up with me but the lure of the mountains always brought me back.

We are selfish people mountaineers I was driven for 30 years I was away on expeditions. I met many of the world class mountaineers on my travels. I felt you could always tell many by their eyes they were pushing and seeking their inner souls on some high mountain. Few held on to relationships I was one of them. I have been told “I was married to the mountains”and that hurt. It can be a lonely place when you come home and no one is there for you.

I am sure things have changed a bit the new generations are doing the impossible already yet the risks are still high in the big mountains. Is it worth it? It’s a personal choice yet it doesn’t just effect you alone,

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Gear, Health, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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