In accounts of all-consuming passions, the details can often overshadow an understanding of motivation. Adventure literature, in particular, is susceptible to this problem. The scale, risk and sense of awe involved in crossing oceans and polar ice caps or climbing mountains can make it hard to grasp why such feats are attempted in the first place. In the past decade or so a few mountaineering books have avoided this trap to tell us often unsettling things about the psychology of top climbers. Among them have been Kiss or Kill, the bleakly existential and angry memoir of self-described "punk-alpinist" Mark Twight, Johnny Dawes's Full of Myself and Andy Kirkpatrick's Psychovertical. If there is a thread linking these accounts, it is the depiction of a kind of awkwardness, the feeling of being out of step with the expectations and demands of ordinary life, usually experienced first at school. A gap filled by climbing.
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