The publication of Bernadette MacDonald’s Art of Freedom - an insightful, enthralling and beautifully written biography of Voytek Kurtyka (probably the most accomplished mountaineer of all time) - is a perfect companion to One Day as a Tiger, my biography of the iconic British climber Alex MacIntyre.
Alex and Voytek led a revolution in lightweight mountaineering in the 1970s and 80s. Alex was my best friend, and we climbed with Kurtyka on two trips together – Koh-i-Bandaka NE Face (1977) and Changabang S Face (1978). Both were done in pure alpine style, and neither route has been repeated. Alex also joined Voytek on two attempts on the West Buttress of Makalu and made the rst-ever alpine style ascent of a major face on an 8000m peak (E Face of Dhaulagiri, 1980).
Reinhold Messner says of Kurtyka, “He is the best. He has done so many brilliant climbs.” And of Alex; “He was the purest of all the Himalayan climbers of his day. He never climbed other than Alpine Style.” But while Kurtyka is not well known to the UK public due to his reclusive nature, Alex is not known because he died aged 28 on our Annapurna trip in 1982; killed by a single falling stone.
If he were alive today, I believe Alex would be a household name like Bonington or Scott such was his talent. He was also a visionary, predicting the internet, and mountain tourism. In my book I describe an argument we had high on Huinchuli, looking out the ickering lights of Pokhara. How different Nepal is now, as I discovered when I returned to Annapurna in 2014 to restore a plaque for Alex. In 1982, there was one lodge in the Kali Gandaki at Chomrong. Now there are well-equipped lodges, with internet access, that can sleep thousands of people.
Chris Bonington says of my book; “It is a brilliant read on so many different levels.” I have been fortunate to win several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Book Festival, the world’s most prestigious Mountain Literature Award. It is the rst book by a mountaineer to be shortlisted for the Times Cross Sports Writer of the Year. It has done exceptionally well in the UK because it is so accessible to non-climbers as well as serious mountaineers. I suspect by the time you read this, Bernadette McDonald’s Art of Freedom will also be on everyone’s shortlist of must-read mountain books.
One Day As A Tiger is available in store, in our book department.