Book Review – Adventures at the Edge of the World

Simon Mentz reviews Adventures at the Edge of the World – The Epic Story of Tasmanian Rock Climbing by Gerry Narkowicz and Simon Bischoff

It is hard to know where to start with this new book from Gerry Narkowicz and Simon Bischoff, but it would be fair to say that Adventures at the Edge of the World – The Epic Story of Tasmanian Rock Climbing is quite simply the most ambitious book on Australian climbing to date.

CoverCoffee table in size (eds: literally, this thing is as big as a coffee table), beautifully printed, resplendent in hard cover and at over 530 pages… the size, scale and weight of this beast (akin to a couple of house bricks) sets a new benchmark in Australian climbing publishing. With hundreds and hundreds of photos (by over 35 photographers) along with contributions by 68 different authors, Gerry has done an amazing job of pulling it all together. Every page is a delight and full credit should be given to the book’s designer, Boris Petrack, whose layout is outstanding. He has injected some great graphics into each story, yet maintained a classy and refined look throughout.

The structure of the book is logical and well thought out with each era introduced in detail by Gerry and then followed up with stories by different authors recounting first ascents and adventures. Each era then draws to a close with more articles and interviews providing insight into the leading climbers and culture of the time.

Adventures at the Edge of the World6Continually interesting photos by dozens of different photographers make the book a visual feast, but it is the work of the multi-talented Simon Bischoff, whose ability to capture the wildness and beauty of the Tasmanian climbing that he clearly has a lot of love for that really lifts the book to that next level.

So far I have only read a fraction of the text as it is a book I like to dip in and out of, exploring different eras and personalities. My favoured reading is usually the earlier history. The sheer audacity and commitment required launch up Tasmania’s big, remote cliffs with such rudimentary equipment still blows me away. Browsing through the text I find myself always reading titbits that amaze me, such as John Moore’s recollection of climbing in the ’60s and in particular how he and Ewbank, having just established the first ascent of Chimes of Freedom (270m, grade 17) on Frenchmans Cap, then launched up the unclimbed East Face later that day! (They did bail after climbing 500 feet). In a more sobering reflection, Moore then goes on to describe the incident where he dislodged a large boulder whilst scrambling up to the base of the Organ Pipes on Mt Wellington. The boulder clipped Phillip Stranger and sent him tumbling a long way to the ground. Stranger survived the fall but ended up being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Adventures at the Edge of the World3The seriousness of much of Tasmania’s climbing never feels far away, but as this book demonstrates, the rewards are so definitely worth it. Hopefully younger climbers coming from indoor and sport climbing backgrounds will find inspiration within its pages and want to develop their skills so they can experience Tasmania’s wild and remote cliffs.

This is the second book (I am aware of) that really tries to capture in detail the surprisingly rich history of Australian climbing (the other being Michael Meadows excellent, The Living Rock – The Invention of Climbing in Eastern Australia). Both books are very significant and welcome additions for Australian climbers, but Adventures at the Edge of the World offers extra appeal with its stunning images and higher production values.

If you want to purchase the book (it would make an awesome Xmas gift), then do Gerry and Simon a favour and order it directly from them at  RRP $99.
Simon ” The second Best Simon in Climbin’ ” Mentz


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