A Dream of White Horses: Recollections of a Life on the Rocks

Edwin Drummond is a visionary climber and poet, creator some of the most famous routes in the British Isles. A Dream of White Horses is the poetic name Drummond gave to his most infamous rock climb, on the cliffs of Gogarth in North Wales. As the title of this gathering of essays and poems, it brings the same atmosphere of drama, myth and sheer dare-devilry to this book as it does to one of the most renowned and prized routes in Britain. An inspired climber and writer, Drummond was also a maverick, perhaps a genius, though this is so easily coined to describe one who ruthlessly follows his own line. He made the first ascents of some of the most famous climbs in the UK and won two Keats prizes and a National Poetry prize for his writing. This collection provides a loose but vivid autobiography, marking the pivotal moments of a life lived intentionally on the edge. Drummond's writings initially gained prominence in the prestigious American journal Ascent. First published in a book in 1987 they received a very mixed reception, reflecting the author's controversial notoriety as a climber. The Boardman Tasker judges declined to shortlist this book and three US publishers rejected it, yet the book got rave reviews in the climbing press. Principally a climbing book, the main chapters concern big climbs: first ascents on St John's Head and the Troll wall, a solo ascent of El Capitan's Nose and an audacious solo attempt on the North America Wall on which the author nearly froze to death. Political and social concerns figure prominently as Drummond used his climbing skills to draw attention to a variety of causes - an anti-apartheid protest on Trafalgar Column and building climbs in the US in support of civil rights activists. This tempered by a more private, darker side of his character. Adolescent sexual pre-occupations curdled into a sequence of failed marriages and relationships, bringing him to the edge of despair. This is reflected in his writing, as is his tenacious struggle away from the brink, and his scorn for attempts to romanticise such pressures. Indeed this collection, though rooted in climbing, uses danger, elation, toil and intense relationships to allow a thorough literary examination of the psyche that leaves the reader both enlightened and exhausted in its wake.