A journey from MS to mastering mountains

Nick Allen - mountaineer extraordinaire and now published author

The remarkable story of Bachelor of Arts graduate Nick Allen’s journey from wheelchair-bound multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer to Himalayan summit climber has just been published by Massey University Press.

To The Summit is Nick’s hugely inspiring and personal account of how his love of the outdoors compelled him to experience the joys of climbing and tramping again, despite his debilitating condition.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 25, Nick thought his climbing dreams were over — indeed, that his life was over. Alarmed by his increasing incapacity — exhaustion, profound weakness, loss of balance — and facing life on a mobility scooter, Nick decided to fight back.

It was a tough road; one strewn with challenges that laid him low both physically and emotionally. But, with grit, determination and a growing self-awareness, he set out to climb not only his own personal ‘mountain’, but also summited Island Peak (6,189 metres) in the Himalayas in late 2015. In so doing, Nick found inner peace, acceptance and grace, learning that he has nothing to prove and nothing to lose.

Nick Allen below Nangkar Tshank in Nepal

Writing and climbing both challenging

He says writing about his experiences – from diagnosis and adjustment to a deciding to pursue his quest to return to his beloved mountains – was bigger than some of the physical challenges.

“Writing To the Summit was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. Climbing a 6000m peak in the Himalayas and the months of preparation were easier than writing the book!” he says. “While I knew the act of writing was going to be a challenge, the thing I didn’t anticipate was the emotional response to revisiting some of the most difficult times of my life. I realise now that there was a lot of stuff I had not processed and this was incredibly confronting to me. Hopefully the result of this is a more insightful and interesting read.”

He is most proud of the many beautiful photographs he has taken which are in the book, complementing his evocative descriptions and powerful personal narrative.

Book cover of To the Summit

Trust to inspire others to chase their outdoor dreams

Nick is passionate about helping others, and in 2015 created the Mastering Mountains Charitable Trust to support and encourage others with MS. Administered by Multiple Sclerosis NZ, the trust works with New Zealanders with MS to overcome obstacles that prevent them getting outdoors.

He is about to embark on a PhD in Literature at Massey, looking at the New Zealand Alpine Journal and the concept of the New Zealand climber.

“What I am hoping to track is the changing ways in which climbers have viewed themselves in relationship to the landscape,” he says. “For example, I would like to chart the change from early climbing as part of the Imperial conquest of the land, to modern climbing as a means of conquering some internal landscape. I am really excited about this project and look forward to seeing how it develops.”

Read about Nick’s journey from a wheelchair to a mountain summit in 10 questions.

To the Summit is available in bookstores nationwide.

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