Wanaka climber tells her life story
Colourful Lake Hawea identity Lydia Bradey is famous for climbing.
Now that Bradey and her writer friend Laurence Fearnley have produced Going Up Is Easy, a book about the pioneering climber’s exploits, everyone has it straight from the horse’s mouth what makes this self-confessed ‘‘chatter box’’ tick.
The book has lots of hooks in the first chapter to keep readers turning the 272 pages, and Wanaka has fallen for it hook, line and sinker.
Last Saturday’s book launch at Lot 3 Cafe was full. People were turned away. Wanaka Paper Plus manager Chris Lumsden said more than half the 100-strong audience bought the book on the night, which was unprecedented. He sold 62 copies.
Bradey’s controversial pioneering summit of Mt Everest in 1988, without oxygen, is clearly not her only accomplishment.
She has a breathtaking way with words. Lumsden said you would have heard a pin drop throughout her speech and seven readings. ‘‘It was awesome . . . a balance of laughter, humour and epic adventure.’’
Despite her story-telling talent, Bradey passes all credit for the book to award-winning Fearnley, with whom she flatted in Christchurch in 1989.
When Bradey was young, she wrote poems, letters and diaries. She won a PEN Young Writers Incentive Award in 1975, preferred using green ink ‘‘because it was trendy’’ and refused to date anything because ‘‘I thought it was really uncool to date things’’.
The book came about because the busy Bradey recognised ‘‘after about 15 years that I wasn’t going to get around to writing it’’.
Bradey asked Fearnley to write because the friendship was ‘‘part of who I am’’.
‘‘I lived with her immediately after Everest. That was so fantastic. So funny. And it was all about words. But when I asked her, she had to have a big, big think. Her concerns where not about wanting to tell the story, but whether she wanted to work that much!’’
Bradey estimates Fearnley would have spent at least 900 hours researching and writing. That included trying to make sense of her undated, disordered collection of green-ink letters.
‘‘She had to read my letters to my mother! They would be on anything. They were written on anything, on napkins, pieces of paper.’’
When Fearnley returned it to her to edit she had an ‘‘Oh my God’’ moment when she realised not just how much material Fearnley had dealt with, but had cut out.
Bradey would have written her story as a series of chronological events. But she accepted Fearnley’s explanation some details were not so important and her life could not be depicted as linear.
A large chunk of Bradey’s experiences in Mongolia got the chop. If Bradey had written the book, she says would not have had the discipline to do that.
Fearnley has crafted something personal, conversational and episodic. As friend and writer, Fearnley has her own voice in the book too and Bradey loves that.
The emails between the friends are now precious to Bradey. She has kept them all, describing them as a piece of ‘‘amazing’’ writing in their own right, as Fearnley discusses how she is crafting the book.
‘‘It is like being in a special golden room. Someone has let you in and found you the best tutor in the world,’’ Bradey said.
In such awesome circumstances, it is easy to understand Bradey’s uncharacteristically brief replies. ‘‘I am a chatterbox, yet my emails would be one line.’’
Bradey has 34 years climbing experience and is a qualified New Zealand Mountain Guide Association guide. When not working for Adventure Consultants, Bradey, 54, commutes to her physiotherapy job at a rest home in Alexandra.
She had a hip operation in January, so the past six months have been about the book, recovery and finishing her International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations qualification.
She may take up painting, even though she doesn’t think she would prove naturally skilled at it.
‘‘My dream, when I amold, is that I would like to start doing some art. But I amtoo busy at the moment.’’
What: GoingUpIsEasy by Lydia Bradey Published: 29 May, 2015, Penguin
RRP: $38 More information: randomhouse.co.nz; lydiabradey.com
Lydia Bradey, left, of Lake Hawea and Laurence Fearnley of Dunedin.