Imagine for a second, walking up a a tricky mountain path. Now imagine doing it blind. No easy task, you’ll agree. Now replace the mountain path with a 137 metre high sea stack off the coast of Scotland. Could you climb it without sight? Well author, stay-at-home dad and avid climber Red Széll did just that. And his book The Blind Man of Hoy is a witty and informative account about the whole experience. To say the least, it’s pretty darn good!
Musings on the book…
First thing’s first — this is a really beautifully written publication. I’ve read a few sporting books over the years and they can tend to be a bit dry, but Red has a truly mesmerising way of stringing words together. For me, the sign of a good book is when you say to yourself you’ll read to the end of a chapter and find yourself having read an additional three. That’s certainly the case with this book. It also has the ability to make you randomly chuckle and I love that.
Climbing the Old Man of Hoy had been Red’s dream since the moment he’d seen the televised ascent of Europe’s tallest sea stack in the mid 80s. According to his mother, Red “began climbing at a very young age, learning to scale the sides of [his] cot and mastering the downward traverse to [his] toy-box before he was a year old.” But after discovering his degenerative eye disorder at 19, he started climbing less and less. So for the best part of 20 years, Red hung up his harness. But the dream never really died.
Then at a Christmas party, after a few too many glasses of Rioja, Red made a decision that would change his life. He decided to go for it and declared his intent to climb the Old Man. His friends were delighted and they knuckled down to some training. Some hard core training. Obviously Red faced a variety of challenges on top of those you or I might face, but the way in which these challenges are described and overcome is incredibly eye-opening and inspirational.
You don’t have to be a climber to read or enjoy this book, but if you have even the slightest interest in climbing, you’ll absolutely love it. It’s great bedtime, holiday and commuting reading and will inspire you to up your game, whether that’s in climbing or any other sport.
Red really is just a normal guy who suffers with all the same insecurities, distractions and fitness challenges any ordinary person would and I think that’s what makes this book so accessible. He’s no super muscly, super fit dude, but he just goes to show that sheer determination and some insanely supportive friends can help you achieve anything.
And if you’re a bit baffled by some of the climbing terminology, the book has a brilliant glossary at the back. Have I sold it to you yet?
The book, which you can get from Amazon for a bargain £7.19, was launched on 16 April 2015.