Fowler has an amazing knack of making the ridiculous sound mundane. Some would prefer more technical information or drama but if you know the demands and difficulties of climbing you will understand. Everything is delivered with a wry and dry English wit.
On Thin Ice is a fantastic collection of hair-raising and inspiring mountain ascents. Mick’s personality and passion shines through in this book, his second anthology of ground breaking climbs in some of the world’s most remote regions.
The casual ease that the accounts are told in brings you right into the moment; jammed in an ice tunnel at 6000m for a night; or, pretending to sleep on a minute ice ledge with carrying on up being the only safe option; and, the sad tale of the epic ascent of Changabang’s North Face as also retold by Andy Cave.
The adventures are all the more incredible knowing that he balances these escapades with a happy family life and a full-time job with the HMRC, no mean feat!
Since first arriving as a climber Mick Fowler demonstrated a willingness to push out boundaries with an insatiable appetite for exploring fresh areas and discovering new routes, and he soon became well known amongst climbers and respected throughout the mountaineering world for his prolific production of first ascents. There is no doubting his climbing and mountaineering abilities, and there is universal agreement to him being titled "The Mountaineers' Mountaineer" in `The Observer' newspaper feature "The Experts' Expert". Soon after this accolade he wrote his first autobiographical book `Vertical Pleasure' and now `On Thin Ice' takes up the story with records of his adventures since about 1990 on bigger and more demanding peaks around the world.
Anyone with knowledge of mountaineering will be awestruck by the severe nature of Mick Fowler's sensational climbs, particularly being accomplished in lightweight style and fitted into holidays from full-time employment. An indication of his high regard is the award of a US `Golden Piton' and a French `Piolet d'Or' for extreme alpine achievement on the ice of Siguniang in China. Though the severity and supremacy of Fowler's expeditions can be acknowledged accurately by climbers (just as Mick the "Mountaineers' Mountaineer") I believe his book `On Thin Ice' is perhaps not sufficiently `ripping yarn' quality and is too narrowly focussed for general readers. Expedition details are competently and carefully recorded and climbers can share in triumphs and tragedies with awareness of objective and subjective difficulties and of risks. However often Mick Fowler's modesty avoids drama and makes too light of tensions, and though attempted as humour his understatements lead to a dryness in writing. To substantiate this view I draw attention to how `On Thin Ice' was short-listed for the Boardman-Tasker Award in 2005 when the winner was `Learning to Breathe' by Andy Cave. Each book details the 1997 epic on the North face of Chanabang, but for me greater empathy is promoted by Andy Cave's impassioned treatment which is both more sensitive and more spectacular. I think the Boardman-Tasker judging panel got it right.
I may not judge `On Thin Ice' as a masterpiece of writing for general readership, but I look up to Mick Fowler as one of the most imaginative and courageous of climbers, and his amazing achievements deserve maximum recognition. In his Foreword to `On Thin Ice' Chris Bonington predicts rightly the book "will surely take its place as one of the most important accounts of contemporary high-standard climbing".