Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tonight: Q and A with author and mountaineer Harry Farthing

Top of his game

Posted by Erin Davis on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 10:42 AM

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World-renowned mountaineer and traveler Harry Farthing wrote his first novel, Summit, after moving to Charleston in 2010 to start what he saw as an early retirement. However, Farthing isn’t settling down quite yet. From leading a group of 13 to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro to summiting the Matterhorn, Shishapangma, and Mt. McKinley (just to name a few), Farthing has seen a whole lot of the world — and he isn’t one to just take it easy.

Summit captures his real-life adventures with startling precision in the tales of his characters, which include present-day Everest guide Neil Quinn and Josef Becker, a 1940s Nazi climber. From America, India, and the airports in between, Farthing’s book captures the human spirit and the adventures that we all crave (and will be out in paperback come January).

Tonight, from 6-7 p.m. at the Charleston Library Society, you can chat with Farthing for yourself as part of the Library's speaker series. 

CP: You are an incredibly experienced climber and have lived all over the globe, not to mention that you’re a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. What drew you to writing about these experiences?

Farthing: I’ve always had an interest in writing. Climbing and writing weren’t my day jobs, though. I was in real estate. Usually I always wrote about my experiences very much for myself and my family and I always read about the mountain I was to climb before I went. Reading about the mountain could not only save your life, but it’s also beautiful, especially the climbing classics. My writing is definitely a mashup of my climbing experience.

CP: Summit goes back and forth between present day and the years of Nazi Germany. Do you often write historical drama?

Farthing: I’m from England, and people in Europe are very conscious of what happened during the world wars. When your country goes through something so powerful, like World War II, it is ingrained in your culture. I’m a 19th century buff, for sure. In regards to Mt. Everest, a lot of the issues are the same for present day, even though today we think more about the individual accomplishment of summiting over national glory, which was what a lot of nations tried to do during this time.

CP: I hear you’re working on a second novel that is based on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Will this novel follow the same style as Summit?

Farthing: At the moment, the novel focuses on the 1900s-1920s, so from the turn of the century to the first World War. A lot of this war surrounded the areas near Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is something people tend to forget. I’m really interested in this war but, of course, the whole thing was completely ridiculous. War itself is often futile.

CP: In the Author’s Note at the end of Summit, you mention the stress of overcrowding and climate change on today’s Mt. Everest. Do you have any suggestions on how to remedy these issues, especially in regards to the Southeast Ridge route, which is the most populous?

Farthing: Until the mid-1990s, only one or two expeditions climbed Everest a year. Now, the Southeast Ridge sees 400-500 people at a time at base camp alone. You see, I’ve been climbing hard for 13-14 years now. I’ve earned my chops. But Everest is like being invited to the Daytona 500 as a driver. Say you went there and saw the best professional drivers next to you. On the other side, you see a kid who just got his driver’s permit. That’s what’s going on now. Not to mention the underpaid sherpas and refuse of 500 people and their used oxygen tanks.

CP: You’re originally from North Devon in England, but you moved to Charleston with your wife in 2010. What made you plant your stakes here?

Farthing: My wife’s family is from here, and I’ve been visiting since the 2000s. We lived in Italy for 12 years and had enough of it. I love Charleston, everyone has been so kind. I just hope I don’t fit into that Yankee stereotype.

CP: Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

Farthing: I just want to entertain, but I also want to inform. If a reader buys this book, how will they feel at the end of it? Really, I’m auditioning for their time. You’ve only got so much time on this Earth. I don’t think it’s a complete disaster, and I hope my readers feel the same way.

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