Climbing the Seven Volcanoes

A Search for Strength

Publication Date15th October 2020

Book FormatHardback





One morning, when she was very young, Sophie Cairns’ lungs tried to kill her. Every three months from the age of three to twelve, asthma sent her to hospital, where she slept in an oxygen tent. What makes someone who struggles to breathe seek out the thin air of high-altitude peaks on every continent on earth?
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Everything changed for Sophie Cairns when she was thirty and a party-loving journalist in China. Her father died so suddenly that she arrived at his bedside two hours too late. In her grief, she defied her chronic asthma and climbed the world’s seven highest volcanoes to raise funds for charity in his memory. This is a story of redemption through mountain climbing, from Papua New Guinea to Russia by way of Antarctica.

As an amateur climber the author does not gloss over her limitations and (sometimes hilarious) mistakes. She encounters the snobbery of the professional climbing world. ‘I was smothered in a purple goose down onesie as thick as a duvet. Under the plush expedition suit, I wore two pairs of climbing pants, a soft-shell jacket, a fleece top, a pair of inner gloves, a pair of outer gloves, and plastic boots. Not to mention thermal underwear. My plastic climbing boots barely closed around my ankles, which were adorned with three layers of socks.’ Only to be told by those lounging around in T-shirts and shorts: ‘You don’t need to wear your Antarctica clothes yet. Everyone changes on the plane.’ She suffers altitude sickness – so much more dangerous for an asthmatic – but she makes it. Sophie somehow finally said goodbye to her father in that enormous ring of fire.
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