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Victor Saunders - Author

About the Author

Victor Saunders was born in Lossiemouth and grew up in Malaya. He started climbing in the Alps in 1978 and has climbed in the Caucasus, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. He became a UIAGM mountain guide in 1996 after a career as an architect in London. He relocated to Chamonix, France and became a member of the SNGM (National Syndicate of French Mountain Guides) in 2003. He has been on more than ninety expeditions in mountain ranges including the Himalaya and Karakoram, and estimates that he has spent seven years of his life under canvas. His previous books include Elusive Summits, which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature in 1990; No Place to Fall; and Himalaya: The Tribulations of Mick & Vic, co-written with Mick Fowler, which won the Grand Prize at the Passy International Mountain Book Festival in 2015.

Featured books by Victor Saunders

Structured Chaos The unusual life of a climber

Structured Chaos The unusual life of a climber

Author: Victor Saunders Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/03/2021

Structured Chaos is the latest volume of memoirs from one of the world’s leading mountaineers. While it contains accounts of Alpine and Himalayan exploits at least equal to any of those in its predecessors, this a more wide ranging and contemplative work. From an early childhood in colonial Malaysia via a bleak Scottish boarding school and a haphazard introduction to rock climbing in the Avon Gorge to the lofty heights of the Karakoram and the presidency of the Alpine Club (although of course he’s too modest to mention the latter), Saunders’s focus is very much on the personalities, friendships and occasional frictions experienced during the ‘unusual life of a climber’.   The descriptions of the rigours, terrors and elations of high altitude climbing are leavened by a thread of understated but appealing lunacy running through the book including a brutal boxing match in a terrifying East End pub with his friend and climbing partner Mick Fowler, and the establishment of the longest continuous traverse in the British Isles; the 33 pitches of vertical mud and crumbling sandstone that is Reasons to be Fearful, a project described at the time by his co-ascentionist Phil Thornhill as “probably the silliest route on the silliest cliff ever climbed”.   Ultimately, however, the lasting impression is of the author’s infectious enthusiasm for the landscapes and the people he encounters as he pursues the obscure ambitions of the exploratory mountaineer. The book opens and closes with a quote from Colin Kirkus; “Going to the right place, at the right time, with the right people is all that really matters. What one does is purely incidental”. Whether he’s working his passage as the “oily rag” in the engine room of a cargo ship or being blown, inside a tent, across a glacier by a huge avalanche, it’s this world view which makes Saunders book such an engaging read. Sam Huby, climbing enthusiast   Find our full list of recommended adventure reads for the London Mountain Film Festival Bookfest 2021 - plus extra festival news!

Other books by Victor Saunders

No Place To Fall

No Place To Fall

Author: Victor Saunders Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/01/2017

No Place to Fall is Victor Saunders' follow up to his Boardman Tasker Prize winning debut book Elusive Summits. Covering three expeditions in Nepal, the Karakoram and the Kumaon, each shares the exhilaration of attempting new alpine-style routes on terrifyingly committing mountains. In 1989 Victor Saunders and Steve Sustad completed a difficult route on the West Face of Makalu II, only to be brought to a storm-bound halt above 7,000 metres while descending. Without food or bivouac gear, they endured a tortuous descent after a night in the open. Two years later the pair were with a small team in the Hunza valley exploring elusive access to a giant hidden pillar on the unvisited South-East Face of Ultar, one of the highest and most shapely of the world's unclimbed peaks. In 1992 Victor Saunders was part of a joint Indian-British team climbing various peaks in the Panch Chuli range. A happy and successful expedition narrowly avoided ending in tragedy when Stephen Venables broke both legs in a fall on the descent from Panch Chuli V and Chris Bonington survived another fall going to his aid. The dramatic evacuation of Venables, in which the author took a major part, forms an exciting climax to a story of cutting-edge, alpine-style climbing in the world's highest mountains. No Place to Fall offers enviable mountain exploration, enriched by sharing the lives of the mountain peoples along the way. Victor Saunders casts a perceptive, if bemused, eye over his fellow climbers and reflects on the calculation of risk that drives them back year after year to chance their lives in high places.

Elusive Summits

Elusive Summits

Author: Victor Saunders Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/01/2017

At a time when the greatest mountains in the greatest ranges had been climbed by numerous routes, collected like stamps and written about extensively, Victor Saunders and his friends relished the exploration of the slightly lower, slightly humbler, but often more aesthetically satisfying and no less testing summits in the 6,000- and 7,000-metre range. With thousands of unclimbed peaks in the Karakoram and Himalaya to choose from, these were ripe fruit for the committed mountaineers of the day. In his Boardman-Tasker-winning Elusive Summits, Victor Saunders describes four expeditions to the Karakoram, to Uzum Brakk, Bojohaghur Duanasir, Rimo and the stunning Spantik. Battling crevasses and violent weather, injured climbers and dropped rucksacks, Saunders and his friends make a string of exciting and difficult ascents. Saunders communicates the highs and lows of expedition life with relish, good humour, and a keen eye for the idiosyncratic among his companions. His first book, Elusive Summits, is a wonderful celebration of the sheer exhilaration that comes from the hardest level of alpine-style exploration in the Karakoram.

No Place to Fall

No Place to Fall

Author: Victor Saunders Format: Ebook Release Date: 14/03/2013

No Place to Fall is Victor Saunder's follow up to his Boardman Tasker Prize winning debut book Elusive Summits. Covering three expeditions to familiar and unfamiliar ranges in Nepal, the Karakoram and the Kumaon, each shares the exhilaration of attempting new alpine-style routes on terrifyingly committing mountains. In 1989 Victor Saunders and Steve Sustad completed a difficult route on the West Face of Makalu II, only to be brought to a storm-bound halt above 7000 metres while descending. Without food or bivouac gear, they endured a tortuous descent after a night in the open. Two years later the pair were with a small team in the Hunza valley exploring elusive access to a giant hidden pillar on the unvisited South-East Face of Ultar, one of the highest and most shapely of the world's unclimbed peaks. Climbing at night to avoid being caught out by the torture of sun on ice, they were a few pitches from the summit ridge on soft snow and rotten ice before equipment failure committed them to a dire descent. In 1992 Victor Saunders was part of a joint Indian-British team climbing various peaks in the Panch Chuli range and exploring its approaches from the west. A happy and successful expedition narrowly avoided ending in tragedy when Stephen Venables broke both legs in a fall on the descent from Panch Chuli V and Chris Bonington survived another fall going to his aid. The dramatic evacuation of Venables, in which the author took a major part, forms an exciting climax to a book which describes at first hand what it is like on the cutting edge of contemporary alpine-style climbing in the world's highest mountains. As well as exciting climbing action, No Place to Fall offers enviable mountain exploration, enriched by sharing the lives of the mountain peoples along the way. Victor Saunders also casts a perceptive, if bemused, eye over his fellow climbers and reflects on the calculation of risk that drives them back year after year to chance their lives in high places.

Elusive Summits

Elusive Summits

Author: Victor Saunders Format: Ebook Release Date: 14/03/2013

Elusive Summits is the award winning first book by British mountaineer Victor Saunders, winner of the 1990 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. Documenting climbs in the 1980s, at a time when the greatest mountains in the greatest ranges had been climbed by numerous routes, collected like sets of stamps and written about extensively by the world's leading climbers, Saunders and his companions relished the exploration of the thousands of peaks in the 6000 and 7000 metre range. These slightly humbler, but often more aesthetically satisfying and no less testing summits of the Karakoram and the Himalaya, were ripe fruit for the committed alpinists of the day. Saunders describes four lightweight expeditions to the Karakoram, beginning with Uzum Brakk, or Conway's Ogre, which he visited in 1980. Along with his two climbing companions, neither of whom he knew at all well, he discovered the serious nature of Karakoram glaciers, and faced up to the violent weather that eventually beat them back on the summit ridge after they had nominally completed their route. The trio interrupted their attempt on Uzum to perform a dramatic rescue of two badly injured Japanese climbers on nearby Latok IV, and this contact led indirectly to Bojohaghur Duanasir, one of the highest unclimbed mountains in Pakistan, which became the object of the North London Mountaineering Club's attentions in 1982. Here, in the company of such friends and climbing partners as Mick Fowler, the joy of new route finding on an unclimbed 7000-metre peak outweighed the perilous bivoua and torture by lightening. 1983 offered a rare chance to join Indian climbers on the front line of the Indian-Pakistan border conflict across the Siachen Glacier. The pleasure of solving intricate technical problems with Stephen Venables high above the firing line was brought to an abrupt end by a dropped rucksack which caused an epic descent from just below the then unclimbed summit of Rimo. The fourth expedition was an attempt on the stunning peak of Spantik. First glimpsed from Bojohaghur, this a mountain whose awe-inspiring Golden Pillar, soaring 4000 feet to the summit ridge, demanded attention. Saunders' ascent in 1987 with Mick Fowler, and subsequent pitch-by-grunt account, proved to be one of the most exciting and difficult ascents of the decade by British alpinists. Saunders communicates the highs and lows of expedition life with relish, good humour, honest trepidation and a keen eye for the idiosyncratic among his companions. Elusive Summits is a wonderful celebration of the sheer exhilaration that comes from the hardest level of alpine-style exploration in the Karakoram.

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