The Totem Pole: Surviving the Ultimate Adventure

October 30, 2020
The Totem Pole: Surviving the Ultimate Adventure

Mountain climbing defined Paul Pritchard’sexistence and signposted his horizons. One of the leading climbersof the 1980s and 1990s, his adventures took him from his Snowdoniabase to the Himalaya, from the Karakoram to Patagonia, from BaffinIsland to the Pamirs. Winning the Boardman Tasker Award forMountain Literature in 1997 with his book DeepPlayallowed him a life dedicated to climbing. Paulspent the prize money on a round-the-world climbing tour, whicheventually found him in Tasmania attempting the most slender seastack on the planet, the Totem Pole.On Friday 13 February 1998, Paul’s life was changed irrevocablyby a TV-sized boulder which fell from this sea stack and struck himon the head. He spent the next years fighting the hemiplegia whichparalysed the right side of his body, and caused such a terriblebrain injury that doctors thought he might never walk or speakagain.Over the following year, Paul began to collect his experiences –from the panic of the ten-hour rescue to the triumph of regainingabilities previously thought lost – and, using only one finger, hepunched them into his computer, one letter at a time. The result isThe Totem Pole. The first bookto win both the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature andthe Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Prize, The TotemPole is a sobering and painful story which embodiesthe resilience that has characterised Paul’s life, but it is alsofunny and ultimately uplifting – a must-read for climbers andnon-climbers alike.