Extreme Lakeland review
- Wednesday 9th February 2022
by Nadir Khan and Tom McNally Vertebrate Publishing £25
Reviewed by Noel Dawson
Extreme Lakeland is a stunning offering from Nadir Khan and Tom McNally. The book takes the reader on a remarkable journey around the beautiful Lake District highlighting how talented adventurers have used the dramatic landscape of the Lakes to test themselves in an incredible range of demanding sports and activities. In the introduction Nadir explains how such landscapes have allowed people to truly become who they want to be while Tom reflects on how he is inspired by the Lakes, the heritage of adventure in the area and how that adventure has become more diverse.
Throughout the book, several writers follow up Nadir and Tom’s words. Jon Sparks discusses what is extreme. He puts forward the idea that there is an extreme for all of us that we should explore. He reminds the reader that we do have to be prepared to push our limits to actually understand and find extreme.
Anna Taylor shares her life in solo climbing. You cannot help but feel her passion for this method of ascent which she feels offers climbing at its purest. All the writers in the book explore their personal goals and ambitions and their excitement at being able to challenge themselves in so many ways. Risk is, of course, a recognised part of the journey and it is understood and accepted by all extreme athletes. Failure and injury are part of the whole experience.
The photography in the book is breathtaking. It has obviously taken years to gather such a huge collection of exceptional images. The reproduction of the photographs is very impressive. Most have been presented at the perfect size; retaining excellent sharpness and colour, particularly in difficult lighting conditions. The composition of the photographs is always carefully considered and the action shots are dramatic and superbly captured. There are images of the Lake District that will simply amaze you. I was disappointed that some photographs were printed over two pages. Parts of these pictures are always hidden by the fold and the overall effect is a little lost. Much of the page with the smaller part of the photograph remains unused.
I have too many favourite images to mention them all. I would pick out the cover shot of two runners on Striding Edge; a daunting feature in the landscape so familiar to those who wander the high fells. There is a great shot of Becki Vale swimming in Blea Tarn. What makes it unusual is that Becki has just used a large axe to break the ice. A really atmospheric photograph captures the warmth of Dubs Hut in Buttermere and a ghostly image pictures a lone walker in the immense whiteness of Lower Man, Helvellyn. You quickly become lost in this enthralling book. There is ice skating on Tewet Tarn, ice climbing on Quarry Fall ice pillar, aerial dancers a thousand feet above Honister and Base Jumping from the famous Tophet Wall on Great Gable. I could barely wait to view the next page although I often kept turning back to enjoy many photographs again.
Leo Houlding has written a Foreword to the book. He reflects on the influence the Lake District has had on his life. Leo has journeyed the world and participated in extreme activities in some of the most remote mountain landscapes. They have all been important in his life but he is drawn back to the Lakes; to home.
Extreme Lakeland is an excellent book. It travels with the few but I think it opens all our eyes and our imaginations and it is certainly a book to return to again and again to perhaps dream just a little. It is one of those treasured books that you may not lend out for fear of never getting it back! The book reminds us that areas like the Lake District are always changing and their use evolving. We must of course remember that it is an environment that is fragile and vulnerable. Use it and enjoy it and protect it. The land of the Lakes has so much to offer to us all.
Congratulations to Vertebrate Publishing for producing another well-constructed and enjoyable book. Congratulations to Nadir and Tom and to all those incredibly determined and talented athletes who contributed to Extreme Lakeland; a book that shares an outstanding compilation of extraordinary and inspiring photographic adventures through one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.