Ad­ven­turer tells tales

Au­thor, fly fish­ing-guide, pow­der skier and ex­plorer Derek Grzelewski of­fers some of his best sto­ries and story telling tips at this year’s Moun­tain Film Fes­ti­val. Deb­bie Jamieson re­ports.

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

There are few sto­ries as ex­treme as Derek Grzelewski’s own.

Fea­tured in the pro­logue of his soon to be re­leased book Go­ing to Ex­tremes: Ad­ven­tures in Un­known New Zealand it is his story of es­cap­ing Soviet Poland to an un­known life.

‘‘It seems quite ex­treme to some­one on the out­side but when I was do­ing it it was pretty or­di­nary. There was noth­ing else I could do.’’

Faced with amil­i­tary sum­mons for three year’s ser­vice un­der a Com­mu­nist govern­ment that had de­clared mar­tial law, his re­solve for free­dom took over.

The ex­pe­ri­enced moun­taineer lay hid­den in a rock crevice on a moun­tain pass bor­der­ing Poland and Slo­vakia as soldiers com­pleted a pa­trol on the snowy moun­tain tops. Af­ter they de­parted he headed down the couloir into the free­dom be­yond ‘‘ten­ta­tively at first, stab­bing the ice axe into the snow for safety and bal­ance, punc­tu­at­ing my gait. Then, find­ing a newer, freer rhythm, open­ing up the throt­tle of the soul, I went from small steps to gi­ant leaps and moon-walked down the slope, con­fi­dent the snow would hold. The Iron Cur­tain did not have many cracks, but I had just found one and there was no turn­ing back,’’ he wrote.

‘‘Some­times you have to go to ex­tremes just to find room to breathe.’’

The book is the third by Wanaka-based Grzelewski. The pre­vi­ous two tales of fly-fish­ing in New Zealand are big sell­ers over­seas.

The sto­ries in Go­ing to Ex­tremes were all pub­lished in ei­ther New Zealand Ge­o­graphic or the Smith­so­nian and are all of people go­ing to ex­tremes - Don Mer­ton’s re­mark­able res­cue of the kakapo, the sci­ence of avalanches, the hero­ics of vol­un­teer fire­men and sto­ries of in­di­vid­u­als in­clud­ing ac­ci­den­tal ex­plorer Alphonse Bar­ring­ton, Jean Bat­ten, Arthur Ly­di­ard and Kelly Tarl­ton.

He is tim­ing the re­lease for this year’s New Zealand Moun­tain Film Fes­ti­val where he also hopes to un­lock some mag­i­cal sto­ries from other ad­ven­tur­ers.

Dur­ing a two-hour pre­sen­ta­tion he will of­fer as­pir­ing story tellers his ideas on what makes a good story.

‘‘People who ad­ven­ture have good sto­ries to tell. Of­ten they don’t quite have the skills to tell them. You can ruin a good story like a good joke by telling it badly,’’ he said.

Sto­ry­telling is, he be­lieves, a uni­ver­sal skill, adapt­able to dif­fer­ent medi­ums and even have to act it out a bit. We all want to hear sto­ries. With­out sto­ries civil­i­sa­tion dies. Sto­ries are how we com­mu­ni­cate, how we re­late, how we learn.’’


Fun filled: Derek Grzelewski train­ing his per­sonal avalanche dog Maya - ‘‘Not much of­fi­cial progress but a lot of fun.’’

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