Sunday, 26 April 2015

Book Review- Beyond the Summit by Todd Skinner

We just got back from a weeks break in the Lake district (Cumbria, England) and on the last day before returning home we decided to climb “The Old Man of Coniston”. It's a 3000ft trek up the mountain starting with a nice gentle incline from the lake and ending in a sharp climb up craggy rocks... (we did it on a respite day without Heni of course!)

During the walk/climb/scramble…I was contemplating the journey up the rocky terrain and a book that I had read came in to my mind. 

The Old Man of Coniston... in the background

A signed copy of “Beyond the summit” was given to us from my niece and husband quite a number of years ago. I’d read it, enjoyed it and then forgotten about it until that point.

The book was written by a rock climber, Todd Skinner, who scaled the infamous Trango towers… a 20,500ft vertical mountain in the Himalayas. The book is a recount of his teams story and journey to conquer the tower but within it he gives gems of wisdom gained from the climb and lessons learned along the way.

The path getting steeper

As I scrambled higher on my “mountain” journey up "The old man" I thought about the book and the gems contained therein. Although originally aimed at a business audience the lessons are for everyone who has a metaphorical mountain to climb in their own lives.

Over the years of caring for our daughter Heni, I have often described to people that it feels like we are climbing a mountain. We started out with lots of energy and supplies in our “back packs” only to find that they have been used up along the way.

Above the slate mine
Over the years of caring we have covered many different terrains. As time has progressed the ascent seems to have steepened, we've got progressively more tired, feel in need of more rest stops and sometimes feel like the climb is getting harder.

In the book Todd says:

....“The greatest gain on a mountain comes not from the first 90% but in finishing the last 10!”.

This part, he explains is the point where you need to do the most with the least resources, less strength, fewer supplies and more hostile conditions.  The final stretch, he states, is often the most difficult part to climb.
Vertical scrambles

....“While the first stage of the climb brings you to the edge of who you were, the end demands that you become more than you were”

The last push

As we ascend “our metaphorical mountain with Heni” I can see the parallels in our different climbs.

But what about those of us who don’t know how large our mountain is and how much more climbing we have to do? Sometimes the mountain can seem ever looming and too large to climb any further. At points along the journey it has felt like I’ve fallen flat on my face or hung from a ledge by my finger tips … so it’s encouraging to read that:

....“Falling is not failing…if nothing else falling teaches you in a dramatic way how not to climb that particular piece of rock”

And so we continue onwards and upwards one step at a time, taking rest stops along the way and sometimes stopping to enjoy the view.
Coniston and Lake Coniston below....half way up.

....“Each mountain is made up on rope lengths, each rope length is made up of a single step”

Why not get off the mountain some people would say? Or why walk all the way to the top?

 .... “You can’t lower the mountain you have to raise yourself. If you cut the mountain in half you become half the climber”

So I take encouragement in the wisdom of experience.

Often change is incremental and hard to discern or mark and thus In the book Todd explains how it’s important to not only look out at the view but to look down and inwards to understand how far you have already come on the journey.

 .... “Understand that you are no longer the person who began the climb… you have acquired a new level of skill, performance and belief…”

As you eventually stand on the summit …it is not JUST the summit, but the culmination of work and effort…the answer to the challenge in the journey to get you there.

From the top you can look out over the end of Lake Coniston and see the sea!

Sadly Todd died in 2006 but he has left behind words of encouragement and wisdom that can benefit us all.  As we are all climbing some type of mountain I would encourage you to read the book for yourself. It is an amazing story of true grit, fortitude and courage. It has motivated me to keep going, climb a little higher and not give up. 

Happy reading


“The summit of the mountain may be the end of the climb but it isn’t the end of your ascent”


  1. Jade - thanks for sharing about your journey up the mountain and the insight you gained. Also thank you for the review of Todd's book - It sounds like a must read book for me. Your neighbor today at #LMMLinkup

    1. Hi Debbie
      Thanks for taking the time to stop by. The book was a great read and Very insightful. A definite 2016 read !

  2. I love how you juxtaposed your own life lessons with lessons from this book! Your photography is beautiful, too. Thanks for joining us at the #LMMLinkup.


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