In Extreme Horizons by David Pickford, we join the author on a celebration of adventure. A series of essays investigates and describes the author’s curiosity with what lies towards the horizon, and what it means to move - up cliffs and mountains, over rivers and sea, over roads and tracks. 

The essays stroll through distant lands and familiar crags, flying high then diving like seabirds into the depths. ’One of the reasons for thinking mountaineering a noble pursuit is that it defies our attempts to categorise it and explain it away.’ [Quoted in the book from Phil Bartlett in The Undiscovered Country.] Adventure psychology is a fascinating topic, and David studiously and carefully examines the reasons why we climb, and the prices we might pay.

When describing a six-month motorcycle tour of South-East Asia, David beautifully captures the essence of the journey in an unknown land. Finding sweet solace at a coconut stall by the side of the road, he writes:

‘I drank the whole thing without stopping. When I’d finished, I asked for another. With a bright smile, the boy grabbed the biggest one in his bamboo basket.’

A journey is painted in colour by the people and places within, and these encounters are drawn visually and elegantly by the author. The stories run from dusty roads in Asia to flashy Sicilian ‘mafia,’ but they also nestle close to home, soloing on Cloggy in North Wales or stand-up paddle boarding around south-west England.

David draws some interesting parallels, such as between the rituals of faith and adventure, or risk-taking in climbing and warfare. Although some of the conclusions are deeper than I might draw, it created thoughtful discussion. 

Taking a much broader view, the book discusses adventure - can it be solitary or with others? Are we hunters, dreamers and fighters? Is climbing a sport?

 Most of the texts have already being published in print magazines like Climb and BASE, but the themes and content are just as relevant today. Occasionally this gave a sense of déjà vu when reading an essay, but in some ways familiarity adds to the conclusion, which often neatly opens like a present unwrapped.

The essays are grouped into four categories: Climbs, Journeys, Voyages and Perspectives. The pieces can bounce a little from one to the next, but reliably settle on the theme of the book: ‘always looking for the horizon.’ Like the motorbike engine roaring into life or the first paddle stroke in the water, adventure is out there to be had.

I enjoyed the essays on soloing and social media. It’s easy to advocate for a clearer, less complicated existence nowadays, and these texts help the drive or desire to be elsewhere, to be outside, searching for distant lands and skies.

You can buy a copy of the book via Amazon for £24.95 in the UK.
If you would like a signed copy, you can contact the author directly via the Monograph Media contact page, who can provide signed copies including UK P&P for £23.95: