Books: Climber scales literary heights

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The Independent Online
A first book, written while recovering from a fractured spine and skill sustained in an ice-climbing accident, yesterday carried off Britain's prestigious Boardman Tasker Award for mountaineering literature.

Paul Pritchard has already had cheated death on two occasions, and on the first he plunged into the sea from the cliffs of North Wales, so it may be as well he has produced his autobiography, Deep Play, at the relatively early age of 30. Pritchard is one of the iconoclasts operating at the frontiers of adventurous climbing. He has just returned from the Pamirs in central Asia where he made a first ascent of a high altitude, 1,200- metre cliff. As bold in its writing style as some of Pritchard's "necky" routes, the book moves from the low life of the climbing community of Llanberis to world's greatest rock walls in Patagonia and the Karakoram.

The Boardman Tasker prize, named after two climbers who perished on Everest, is a Booker in miniature, exciting controversy in the world of mountain books. This year the judges had 25 books on their list. Pritchard carried off a cheque for pounds 2,000. But it is recognition by his peers that matters most. As he said afterwards: "I was blown away to get on the short list."

l "Deep Play" by Paul Pritchard is published by Baton Wicks, price pounds 16.99.

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