Over six decades and across several continents, however, he has had a splendid time exploring peaks both famous and obscure and his charming memoir is a pure joy. It has been a story, for the most part, of fitting his passion into a busy life.
We first find Harding in Iran, where the Cambridge undergraduate has to explain his reasons for wanting to tackle the Elburz mountain range to suspicious officials. Working life would always be something of a distraction. After coming down from Cambridge, it quickly becomes apparent that a career in advertising was ‘not my style’, a judgement confirmed when Harding is required to ‘find a tame leopard to be used as a macho logo to launch a poncey line in Italian shoes.’
Stints in the colonial service, at an Australian university, and in the legal profession do not prevent him from pursuing his mountain dreams and Harding squeezes in jaunts to the Pyrenees, Mount Cook, Mount Kenya, Anatolia, and a host of other locales. Finding a wife does not deter him, even though ‘for many men, marriage marks the end of serious mountaineering.’
This is a witty, engaging book, full of mishaps and triumphs, defined by affection and respect for companions, and imbued with commitment to ski-mountaineering, of which Harding was an influential trailblazer. ‘I have tried,’ he writes, ‘to convey something of the grandeur of the mountain world,’ and he has certainly succeeded. The pictures, drawn from his archive, are wonderful, too.