'I was desperate to haul myself out of the rut and put my face to the wind, to lose myself in endeavour. And in the cold, the snow and the silence of a great immensity to shrug off the restlessness I felt.'
Adrift in a life without risk or surprise and with a burning desire to make some sense of his place in the world, Alastair Vere Nicoll dived into the unknown. Leaving the security of friends, work and a wife, he joined a team of young men to harness the katabatic winds and haul and kite-surf across Antarctica: the coldest, windiest, most violent continent on earth. For Alastair, as for so many men, Antarctica was a land of legend and mystery, the ultimate test of strength, endurance and bravery; a place where he might feed his restlessness and assuage his craving to find meaning in the emptiness. Not since Shackleton had nearly perished attempting the same thing in his Endurance expedition had such a crossing been attempted. This is the story, not only of the first West to East traverse of the continent of Antarctica, but of the crossing of two phases in the author's life - of youth into manhood, frivolity into responsibility, fantasy into reality. It is also the story of a race against time, as he fought to get home for the birth of his first child.
As Alastair battled through the freezing wastes, exploring the earth's wildest continent and his deepest self, he was haunted by the ghosts of past explorers and by the question of what it is to be a 'modern man' - is it possible to be a responsible husband and father as well as an adventurous soul? Told with searing honesty, quiet wisdom and adorned with some bewitching descriptions of Antarctica, Riding the Ice Wind is a compelling and subtly important book for our times, a tale that will resonate deeply with anyone crossing similar bridges in their own lives.
A remarkable journey in the footsteps of Roald Amundsen, the first man to the South Pole. Riding the Ice Wind is a thoroughly engaging and personal story that makes the mental landscape of a polar expedition relevant to the myriad decisions and struggles we face in real life – and from which we often wish to escape.
– Sir Ranulph Fiennes
This is a heart-led account of one of the longest, hardest polar journeys of recent years. It is a testament that enduring hardship isn't about bravado but about a quiet, at times faltering, daily decision to endure.
– Bear Grylls, Born Survivor, Man vs. Wild
It's extremely heartening to discover, through a text that is beautifully and powerfully written, that a younger generation of adventurers has got what it takes - and more. They prove themselves worthy successors to their heroes, Amundsen, Shackleton and Scott.
– John Hare, author of The Lost Camels of Tartary
An original and compelling book that really gets into the psyche of adventure and the conflict between the call of responsibility and the desire for freedom. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
– Jonny Bealby, Wild Frontiers
In turns funny, touching, inspiring, and painful, it was a wonderful story that only got better with a second reading. Full of humor and wisdom, yearning and disillusionment, victory and failure, it is a wonderful book and a worthy read for anyone.
...fresh as a daisy...challenging, intelligent and thoughtful. Riding the Ice Wind reminds us that decent writing about tough adventure need not be a thing of the past. A hundred years ago there was a great explorer with a literary soul and the ability to write well. Alastair Vere Nicoll may not be Ernest Shackleton, but he’s living proof that while the literary explorer may be an endangered species, there are still a few out there, if you know where to look.
– Nick Smith, for Bookdealer
...lovely descriptions of the wilderness. The real voyage at the heart of the book, though, is the attempt to discover meaning in a life the writer had found increasingly mediocre.
– Clove Stroud, Sunday Telegraph
Contemporary explorer Nicoll achieved a novel west–east traverse of Antarctica, following substantially in the footsteps of Roald Amundsen. With three teammates, he used kites rather than dogs, where winds prevailed. This just-published volume is a superbly engaging account of an impossibly hard trip. Its originality, however, lies in its sensitivity to the purpose of such expeditions to the have-it-all generation. In light of the dieselly American airbase that Nicoll stumbles into right at the South Pole, with palpable disappointment, one is tempted to recommend Kellogg's Three Questions as a companion volume. Kellogg suggests that "we live in a post-Wittgenstein age with Platonic longings." This also describes Nicoll.
– Dr Richard Lofthouse, Oxford Today