Anna Deng reviews the new Australian anthology, More Than it Hurts.
At turns poignant and conversational, the new anthology More Than it Hurts edited by Wendy Bruere and Emily Small, celebrates stories of womxn that capture a universal sense of suffering, belonging and fulfillment from their exploits in the mountains and beyond. Drawing deeply from different formative experiences spanning continents, pregnancies and deaths, this anthology gives voice to diverse accomplishments that are appealingly honest and vulnerable in their struggles.
In “The Hardest Project to Send”, Coz Fleming intimately recalls the anxiety and pain of climbing through their transition. Finding safety and strength through their complex and evolving relationship with climbing, they bravely recount loosening their bindings and the subsequent freedom in expressing their gender identity both at and away from the crag. Rooted by a similarly deep and humbling love for the mountains, Thelma Ghayyem and her troupe of “Three Musketeers” question why they climb and defend bolting new routes in Cheshmeh Sohrab, Iran. Facing unrelenting backlash from the predominantly male dominated climbing community, they open up discussion with their harshest critics to find a shared love for the mountains and foster common ground. Years later, the very routes they defended, designed and bolted are still being enjoyed by climbers of all shapes and gender identities across Iran. In the witty “Climbing is for Every Body”, Minty McLennan, a competitive adaptive climber from Queensland endures a childhood of ceaseless preparation for Paralympic glory that eventually leads her and her indomitable (and equally competitive) dad, Phil, to her first competition at the Victorian State Climbing competition. After elevating Phil to “peak proud dad status”, she charmingly concludes “there’s no reason I can’t stand atop an iconic summit or two.”
Bruere and Small initially envisaged the book as a collage of nostalgic campfire memories to reconnect and find refuge during murky depths of the 2020 lockdowns. When reading the collection with fresher eyes, each story feels like an irresistible invitation to get outdoors, to cultivate more diverse and inclusive outdoors communities, and to continue celebrating our womxn.
More Than it Hurts retails for$29.95 and is available at Climbing Anchors, Paddy Pallin, Mont, Mountain Equipment, as well as climbing gyms in Sydney and Canberra, and the Ink Bookshop in Mansfield. You can purchase it online at https://www.climbinganchors.com.au/more-than-it-hurts.