writing about my life

Concerning family arguments over climbing trips

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Dear Mary,

Here is a piece I wrote as a guideline for our coming trip to Kanchenjunga, after our disagreement.

Notes on why camping and travel equipment must be durable

If packing supplies and equipment which will be required in unpredictable or arduous circumstances it is better that things should be of strong construction, while still as light as possible. If you are flying then it is true that baggage handlers are not always very considerate in how they handle your luggage. So also for many journeys by bus, train or hitch-hiking. Even placing large amounts of material in a car is a situation that may damage fragile items. Important supplies are a question of survival, so the right kit will be protecting your welfare.

I made reference to the fact that I wished to be able to throw my lunchbox around or push it into an already full rucksack. One person present made a gesture of shock, as if somehow this was a reference to someone being too rough or forceful. I question their point. The “Namby Pamby School of Travel” makes a moue of distaste unless it finds itself in a situation of suffocating comfort such as is only found in the first world or expensive hotels where guests are smothered by a sense of their own entitlement and status. The Princess and the Pea is a sexist story and women in the modern age who wish to be equal cannot expect feather pillows wherever they go. Especially so when if they are feeling prickly they will turn on any men who make the (by now merely chivalric) token gesture of trying to protect them.

Thus the Princess and the Pea is a tale describing a sufferer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who feels challenged by any quite ordinary discomfort. They would thus risk being such a drain on a proposed travel venture that they would have to be excluded, during the planning phase, as a liability. The “Namby Pamby School of Travel” might try and take water supplies in glass bottles and would suffer thirst very quickly when they were smashed in transit. They might insist on taking unnecessary items of luxury that raised the weight limits of what could be carried above a good level. And yet feminists will insist on being equal. To decode this is to see that they want it all their own way without any compromise. They wish to be pandered to, but that the drain this causes on team morale must be ignored. They wish their planning to guide all, but when the wisdom of their solutions are subject to reason they cry harrassment.

The “Namby Pamby School of Travel” would distract all the male members of any expedition whenever they tried to maintain correct safety or survival disciplines, by barking inappropriate orders during difficult jobs. It would question sensible measures, and try to promote foolish and unwise ones, which would lead to failure of the trip and even risk of death. It would promote the giving of verbal abuse when it was pointed out that such suggestions were simply inappropriate, nothing more. The feather bed designed to protect from the horror of that uncomfortable little pea would exhaust the unfortunates who were forced to carry it around everywhere the group went.

The palanquin of a decadent Roman Empress, borne hither and thither by slaves.

If, moreover, the user of the feather bed were placed in a situation where they had to rely on members of their family then the increased whining and tetchiness would cause a loss of expedition morale because the team members would feel so henpecked. This again would risk failure of the enterprise. It might even launch the possibility that while the group was fatally stuck in a hostile situation their unfortunate last hours would be peppered by relentless verbal abuse. “I told you so”.

That is why I always advise obtaining equipment that is durable and reliable, and discounting the opinions of those who disagree with that. If my planning to maintain safety during the various journeys and missions of my life is challenged, then I will explain carefully as I have done here. I hope this clarifies, thanks.

John x


Dear John,

Where would we be if all females were eliminated from climbing trips? We would be childless and imprisoned in a monoculture with zero life expectancy, that’s where. Climbers need to breed to proudce more climbers, dolt.

Ornamental things such as my lucky Barbie mascot increase morale and there is no reason to try and be disciplined if you are unable to be gentle with some equipment, indeed even with some team members such as children.

Moreover I know you men, you would argue and fight among each other in futile macho disputes as to who is the best climber and who should rightly (or wrongly!) be in charge of the team. The Princess in your tale was sensitive, that’s all.

If you think female climbers are victims of peas such as your oft quoted princess you should try the pain of childbirth, especially while out in the wilds with no male doctors in sight. Come to think of it that might be a definite advantage to many of us.

You men want to take boys and toughen them up too soon, which only results in weak males with brittle egos, as we can see. Women are required in stone age life to assist the bonding of the tribe, and create cohesion. If a climbing expedition is survival then look at humanity’s prehistory. You speak of morale but everyone knows having females on a team makes it more likely everyones emotional needs are met and harmony is attained.

Besides I know plenty of women who are better climbers than you, and whose calorific needs are far less than some hulking brute of a male who insists on sticky toffee pudding every time he has hoisted his frame up a small incline… and this is to say nothing of the statistical fact that women tend to be better cooks. Your “men” would groan and complain every time you served them corned beef stirred into a tin of baked beans as you have been seen to do quite often.

Taking care of equipment is better done by not throwing lunchboxes around rooms, or picking up packed rucksacks by the bungee bit meant for an ice axe, and hurling them into the boot of your bashed up old car, like you did last time. Where would a climber be if they could not be careful and attentive to detail, hmm? They would be corpsicle in a crevasse my dear husband.

And what about the time I negotiated with the armed bandits in Kulu? You wanted to fight – as if your old ice-axe could protect us from a kalashnikov. The delicate touch of someone with a functioning brain was indispensable there wasn’t it!

Overall I don’t agree with your trip guidelines, since if I am the Princess with the Pea, all I can say is that you are not Jack of the Beanstalk. This little discussion just says it all – I’d rather be OCD than Narcissistic John. Good luck making it alone!




On the mountain

John awakes and smells the raw animal sweat in the cave. As his eyes sting from the cold he rolls over. The memories start to creep back. He hears a simian moan and feels a body’s precious warmth near. Last night… what happened? There was a blizzard, a hurried pitch of the tent, a mess tin of melted snow and a bar of mint cake, fear… white-out!

Then he remembers awaking in the dark with pressure… avalanche… “the tent must be buried, is this the end?” And a grunting call as strong hands dug the tent out, tore the fabric. A form sensed, the sensation of being carried. A cave and the darkness.

The dawn is shining through the mouth of the cave, there is fur and an animal smell. A nuzzling and exhalation felt on his face… soft furry breasts press against his chest. Some huge creature. My god! Is this some kind of…

Weeks later, back home, a wistful Mary receives the note from the climbers who were left at basecamp. John gone, missing and not found. They gave up the search eventually, probably crevasse. Gone finally doing his favourite thing… on a mountain. “Oh well, rest in peace John” she thinks.


It is 2021. Villagers in the foothills begin to tell of sightings of strange hairy yeti-like creatures, the size of children but seemingly able to survive in the cold wastes… At night grunts and cries of triumph on the wind… John doing his favourite thing again.


Written by Luke Dunn

April 6, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Prose

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