Structured Chaos

The unusual life of a climber

Series title:

WINNER: Banff Mountain Literature Award 2021

Structured Chaos by Boardman-Tasker-winning author and renowned climber Victor Saunders describes his progression from scaling canal walls in Camden to expeditions in the Himalaya and Karakoram. Told with humour, warmth and honesty, this is a story of friendships, adventures, triumphs and failures.

‘Mountains have given structure to my adult life. I suppose they have also given me purpose, though I still can’t guess what that purpose might be. And although I have glimpsed the view from the mountaintop and I still have some memory of what direction life is meant to be going in, I usually lose sight of the wood for the trees. In other words, I, like most of us, have lived a life of structured chaos.’ Structured Chaos is Victor Saunders’ award-winning follow-up to Elusive Summits (winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize in 1990), No Place to Falland Himalaya: The Tribulations of Vic & Mick. He reflects on his early childhood in Malaya and his first experiences of climbing as a student, and describes his progression from scaling canal-side walls in Camden to expeditions in the Himalaya and Karakoram. Following climbs on K2 and Nanga Parbat, he leaves his career as an architect and moves to Chamonix to become a mountain guide. He later makes the first ascent of Chamshen in the Saser Kangri massif, and reunites with old friend Mick Fowler to climb the north face of Sersank. This is not just a tale of mountaineering triumphs, but also an account of rescues, tragedies and failures. Telling his story with humour and warmth, Saunders spans the decades from youthful awkwardness to concerns about age-related forgetfulness, ranging from ‘Where did I put my keys?’ to ‘Is this the right mountain?’ Structured Chaos is a testament to the value of friendship and the things that really matter in life: being in the right place at the right time with the right people, and making the most of the view.

Victor Saunders was born in Lossiemouth and grew up in Malaya. He started climbing in the Alps in 1978 and has climbed in the Caucasus, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. He became a UIAGM mountain guide in 1996 after a career as an architect in London. He relocated to Chamonix, France and became a member of the SNGM (National Syndicate of French Mountain Guides) in 2003. He has been on more than ninety expeditions in mountain ranges including the Himalaya and Karakoram, and estimates that he has spent seven years of his life under canvas. His previous books include Elusive Summits, which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature in 1990; No Place to Fall; and Himalaya: The Tribulations of Mick & Vic, co-written with Mick Fowler, which won the Grand Prize at the Passy International Mountain Book Festival in 2015.

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