Wanaka climber tells her life story

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By MAR­JORIE COOK

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.

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