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Virgin On Insanity

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Virgin On Insanity


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Coming of age on the world's toughest mountains

by Steve Bell


Outwardly, 'Britain's most experienced teenage Alpinist' is a brave young mountaineer. But he's not experienced at all, at least not in the way he really wants to be. Behind his death defying climbs there lurks a great deal of fear - fear of the opposite sex, fear of failure, fear of not being 'man enough'.

He seeks manhood in the mountains, yet he believes he will only truly gain it by losing something. Harrowing escapades in Scotland, the Alps and Alaska are interspersed by excruciating sexual encounters and unsettling hitchhiking rides. When the mountains fail him, he seeks meaning with a religious cult in Colorado. Eventually he succeeds in his quest, only to find that he's lost more than he bargained for.

In this memoir of youth in the 1970s and '80s, the modern reader will learn there is nothing new about selfies, teenage insecurity or suicidal fanaticism. Told with eye watering honesty, Steve Bell's portrayal of what drove him to flirt with death on treacherous mountains takes us into virgin territory. On the well trodden heights of mountain writing, Virgin on Insanity breaks new ground.