Five places that made me: Mountaineer Patrick Hollingworth


Although I'd been to New Zealand as a child, it was only on a tramping holiday with my family at age 18 that I was immersed in the mountains for the first time. We were walking a then little-known (but now quite popular) route, the Rees Dart Track, when a spare rest day saw me accompany two German backpackers up to Cascade Saddle at the head of the Dart Valley. The Cascade Saddle is a spectacular location which looks across the Matukituki Valley to the south-west face of Mount Aspiring, the area's highest mountain. I remember looking up at Aspiring and thinking, "wow". From that point on I knew that my life would be inextricably linked to the mountains.


Surely this is one of the most beautiful mountain valleys in the world. I experienced my first snowfall in my tent under a pine forest here, and have been back a number of times since. Perhaps nothing on this earth is more pleasant than a late summer's day spent in this valley, by river's edge with pane and il salame in hand.


I'd been mountaineering for several years before I went on my first big mountain expedition to the Himalayas in 2004. I'd read all of the classic mountaineering literature and at last I was actually doing it myself. I found that entire month in Pakistan to be, even to this day, one of the most exciting and fully-lived months of my life. I think it was the intoxicating mix of a completely foreign culture, incredibly friendly and curious people, a stunningly beautiful yet harsh landscape, and the tinge of danger which comes from climbing at altitude, and also from the reported presence of Al-Qaeda in the surrounding valleys (rumours had it that only a few months earlier the CIA had chased Osama bin Laden up the same valley we walked– very happy not to find Osama in base camp).


Many truly sublime moments of my life have been spent in this area, as have many terrifying ones. I've been up the Khumbu more times than I can remember, but of course none more memorable than when I was lucky enough to be on Everest. My favourite moment of all time in the Himalayas? Coming down the Khumbu above Pheriche one stormy evening in late May with four close friends. Only three days earlier we'd stood together on the summit of Everest. Each of us walking alone, caught up in our own thoughts and feelings from the previous few days, but still so bound to one another from the magnitude of the experience.


I travel quite a bit for my work and of recent times have found myself in London on multiple occasions. I lived there in my backpacking youth but love passing through these days as a business traveller. The city is as alive and exciting as always, but just a bit more affordable now that I am 20 years older.

Patrick Hollingworth is the author of The Light and Fast Organisation (Wiley, $35). See