Nobody woke up dead!

I woke up this morning, 5.30am as usual, fully expecting to find myself dead. Or at the very least transformed into a flake or globule of ash courtesy of Mr Putin and his unstoppable nuclear weapons. I staggered out of bed and made the first pot of tea of the day for Dr C and myself, Japanese Sencha for her and my own blend from Nepal for me.

Back in bed soon after, the usual blackbird was announcing dawn, my phone switched on announced a few emails from around the world, as I perused the BBC headlines for my daily dose of left wing fake news. It seems like The Bear is going to retaliate against The Lion for daring to call them out about a chemical weapon manufactured by THEM and used on British soil. It was then that I remembered a book I had read during my mountaineering days in the Nepal Himalaya, “And Nobody Woke Up Dead: The Life and Times of Mabel Barker – Climber and Educational Pioneer (Jan Levi)”. I would spend days just getting to the peak we wanted to climb, sleeping in tents, sub zero temperatures, shitty food, no showers, increasing headaches, total suffering! What helped me through it often was reading books by torchlight about some of the early pioneers of mountaineering; Mallory, Irvine, Millican Dalton, Tilman, Odell, Shipton, and ….. Mabel Barker. 


“This is a biography of a pioneering woman climber. Mabel Barker, a child of the 1880’s grew up with a secret passion for the hills. To her, rock climbing was the sport of the gods; she could not believe her luck when Millican Dalton, famous caveman of the Lake District, invited her to do a roped climb. Supremely talented and naturally fearless, she was soon climbing with the best climbers of the day, making a stunning fourth ascent of Central Buttress with her dear friend and climbing partner, C. D. Frankland. Even when tragedy struck, Mabel refused to become dispirited. This book tells the heart-warming story of a woman who lived life to the full and fought for what she believed in, whether rescuing a starving Austrian boy from the chaotic aftermath of the Great War, or founding her own school in Caldbeck, where pupils were taught respect and knowledge of their environment. Much of her writing was prophetic, giving insights into the origins of outdoor and experimental education. Her ideas are surely as relevant today as they were a century ago particularly her insistence that human beings must live in close harmony with the earth they depend so much upon.”

In this era people were stronger physically and much tougher emotionally. Mabel Barker was determined that being a member of the so called “weaker sex” wasn’t going to hold her back in her actions or her views. This isn’t a technical book about mountaineering, it’s a story of someone who took control of her own life, who didn’t spend time protesting about women’s rights, male domination, or inequalities. She was a Great Woman and her story, including the incident of “Nobody Woke Up Dead” was an inspiration in a cold tent above 20,000ft. Not sure why it popped into my head this morning? 

Categories: books, Travel

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9 replies

  1. “…the breed of men who conquered a continent with a handful of adventurers, wore hair shirts day and night until they stuck to their flesh, and braved the mosquitoes of the Pilcomayo and the Amazon” – Gerald Brenan

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  2. Lots of these great pioneers, be they women or minorities, are usually not obsessed with their status – they are too busy smashing goals. But the media has little use for them, since there is no overt chip on their shoulders.

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    • Spot on Ron, we have lots of historical and contemporary folks like this but as you say, Little is heard of them because our media is choked with celebrities and wannabees who neverwillbe! But, as you have always said, we fight on!

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      • Touche. I remember reading about Benjamin Banneker years ago (black scientist from the 19th century). I thought, “Why is he not celebrated, but civil rights people are?” It later donned on me…the “struggle” must never die or else (God help us) people might start getting along with one another.


  3. She sounds like a lady I would love to have met. Loved your post!

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