Friday, 14 March 2014

Poles Apart (book launch)

Ooohh... what a superb book launch that I attended tonight. It was the launch of Sean Disney and Vaughan de la Harpe's book, "Poles Apart".

I have never met Sean nor Vaughan face-to-face before so this was indeed a treat. I didn't expect Sean to be such a big guy! He must be a good 6' and built strong too. I've known of Sean from more than a decade ago and we've been like ships in the night, often missing each other. I've tried to get him for FEAT a few times now but he's often away on trips in October. Maybe lucky this year? I've known of Vaughan for years so also nice to meet him in person.

It’s about Sean’s second whirl of the Seven Summits – this time with Vaughan, and plus the Poles (and many other things too). But it is not just a book about expeditions and mountains and places.

The pair told tales of trips and people and happenings to journalist David Bristow, who has put their recollections and experiences together. It hasn’t been written as a blow-by-blow account of mountaineering trips. I’m looking forward to reading their story. 

The launch was definitely the SA-Mountaineering-place-to-be. In the crowd were a bunch of Everest summiteers. I recognised Mandy Ramsden (she spoke at the first FEAT in October 2010 – watch her talk) and Robby Kojetin. There were probably many more.

And then there were FOUR Last Degree Explorers Grand Slam (Seven Summits plus both poles – at least the last degree) people present: Sean and Vaughan plus Andy van der Velde and Arthur Marsden. The only person missing was Sibusiso Vilane – he lives in Nelspruit. Remarkably there are only 29 people on the Last Degree Grand Slam list and five of them are South African! (only eight people have gone from a coast to the poles; two non coastal = not a lot of people)

I don’t often hang in serious mountaineering circles so I’m not always with who-is-who but I can say with confidence that many people in the room have climbed one or more of the World’s big mountains – especially as Sean is a guide and has been leading trips for many years (= many mountaineering clients).
Quite a crowd!

 Back to the book… (I bought my copy on site and am delighted to have had it signed) The book is called “POLES APART with some pointy bits in between” by VAUGHAN DE LA HARPE AND SEAN DISNEY as told to David Bristow. It retails for R230 (eBook is R184) and should be available right now (published by Pan Macmillan). It’s 320 pages and it includes central colour plates of captioned photographs from their trips.

An entertaining and fascinating account of the authors’ formidable mountaineering and climbing accomplishments. In 2011 the pair completed the “Grand Slam”, which is summiting the world’s seven highest peaks as well as journeying to the North and South Poles. The book chronicles their achievements in an amusing and modest manner, while still sharing the drama of the various expeditions. 
Poles Apart is highly informative about some of the real nitty gritty encounters and behind-the-scenes information about what exactly it takes to summit some of the world’s highest mountains, delving into the vast and varied challenges of mountaineering and very personal experiences of how the two authors overcame them, finding an inner strength that is just as vital as an outer, physical strength. Although this book delves into the challenges but it does so with a good dose of humour, as both Sean and Vaughan bounce their experiences off each other and reminisce in sometimes hilarious ways with the kind of detail and stories that armchair adventurers (as well as genuine mountaineers) will enjoy. 
This book is not just about mountaineering. There is the required physical fitness, the mental strength, the tortuous planning, the extreme patience (waiting in a tent in sub zero temperatures, day after day, for a window in the weather) the science, the careful choice of equipment, friendships formed, the need for tolerant wives and families, the soul searching … and, of course, the need for a good sense of humour.’ – James Clarke 
VAUGHAN DE LA HARPE is the Managing Director of a company based in Johannesburg that specialises in the administration of insurance-related products. He is the first South African, along with Sean Disney, to have completed the Explorers Grand Slam. 
SEAN DISNEY is the Managing Director of Adventure Dynamics International. He lives with his family in Johannesburg. He has climbed Everest from both sides and is a two times 7 summits climber. Sean is a qualified paragliding pilot, private pilot, open water diver, and cyclist.

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