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The Great Unknown – Mountain journeys in the Southern Alps by Geoff Spearpoint

It is precisely because I am unlikely to ever go there, that I was keen to review this book. I have a fear of mountains, grown from an over-ripe imagination and a fearful incident in my childhood when a party of schoolchildren perished in the Tasmanian wilderness. But who can fail to appreciate their majesty?

Like the New Zealand mountains, the Tasmanian mountains are subject to the extreme vagaries of a cool temperate maritime climate which can change in an instant from mid-summer temperatures to mid-winter conditions, when cool fronts barrel in from the Antarctic.

It is easy for the novice to misunderstand the dangers, and to enter these hostile landscapes underprepared for the worst conditions they might encounter. This is where the skill of experts, like the author, cannot be overstated.

Spearpoint is renowned in the New Zealand alpine community of which he has been a part for more than 50 years. He has shared his joy in being at one with our great mountain landscapes through his numerous books and television appearances. He is a regular contributor to the multiple award- winning magazine, Wilderness, and on the board of the Backcountry Trust.

Through his eyes, the reader is transported to remote mountain landscapes, appreciating through the lens of this passionate outdoorsman, the unparalleled beauty of ridges and tarns, which the majority of us might not hope to see in our lifetime.

And while I am not at home in these wild places, I can still appreciate the breath-taking beauty of mountain tussock and the pure majesty of snow-covered ridge broken only by a single set of footprints.

And I can see why climbers would exhibit both wild exuberance and also experience the sheer humility of being a spectator to such remote and untouched places as Spearpoint has captured in the pages of this book.

But this book is not just eye-candy to the uninitiated, it is also an inspirational guide for anyone considering a journey into the wilderness. Each chapter is devoted to a different walk undertaken by the author, noting dates and companions, and accompanied by maps, so it forms the role of both a journal and a guidebook.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Potton and Burton $59.99.