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On the Dole | Note 3

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Monday, January 2nd. The first week of the new year. Barely awake after staying up until five am last night. Caught up with my bestie over g&t’s and rose petal syrup. Excellent drink. So happy to see Alex but I’d be even happier if my closest friends weren’t spread out all across the globe.

A couple of days ago I started re-reading Deep Play: A Climber's Odyssey from Llanberis to the Big Walls by Paul Pritchard, in preparation for reading his second book, Totem Pole and a Whole New Adventure. Pritchard published his third book a few months back (The Mountain Path: A Climber's Journey Through Life and Death with Vertebrate Publishing, the same publisher as Born to Climb) and I enjoyed it, although it was very different from what I recollect about Deep Play. I guess this should come as no surprise as the two are separated by fifteen years and a life-changing climbing fall which nearly killed Pritchard and left him paraplegic.

It has been nearly a decade since I read Deep Play for the first time and I remember it made an impression. It left me pining to read Pritchard’s second book which deals with the accident and its aftermath, but it’s long been out of stock. Then, only a couple of months ago, the author was kind enough to send me a copy from his private stash at his home in Australia. Before I dive into it, I’m reading Deep Play again — here are some quick observations thus far.

  • In the first pages, Pritchard situates British climbing within a socioeconomic context of the Thatcherite era. I forgot that it were these very paragraphs which initially made me look at climbing from a broader perspective. It seems that I have Pritchard to thank for making a link between my interest in climbing and the anthropological way of thinking I was taught at uni.

  • It is curious but unsurprising that the British climbers of the eighties, many of whom climbed full-time only thanks to the government stipend aka the dole, were (still are?) an object of moral scrutiny. Much more rarely voiced are similar doubts about the way that the middle and upper classes of the earlier dedicates... read more now →


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From Rock Climbing Pioneers
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