Stolen Serenity

By Joshua McKenzie-Brown

The rugged mountains of New Zealand’s South Island were a magical place for Dave Vass. Extreme weather and the risk of avalanche were familiar hazards. As one of New Zealand’s leading mountaineers, Vass was intimately familiar with the terrain of these rocky, snow covered peaks. Until the day his adventure became a nightmare.

Injured by a fall, the 2004 Alpinist of the Year became a tetraplegic instantly. He struggles to comprehend how he survived that night, with hypothermia and a broken neck. Climbing companions Richard Turner, Tom Riley and Richard Thompson stayed by his side, using an emergency locator beacon to call for help. The group were on their way home after a 10 day trip in the Darran Mountains, only 30 minutes away from their vehicle when the accident occurred. The next morning Vass was rescued by Te Anau search and rescue volunteers. He’s now unable to walk or access the places that meant the most to him.

His new novel ‘Not Set in Stone : The passion and consequence of a mountain life’ is more than a memoir of journeys in the mountains, it’s a refreshingly honest look at what happens when things go wrong. In a way that only someone who spent years in the wilderness can, Vass portrays the escape from civilization and connection to alpine solitude effortlessly. 

He’s found peace with life after injury. “It's the connection with nature I miss the most, but I'm working on new ways to do that. I think it's important for all of us.”

 “I used to get really frustrated with losing my physicality, but I've moved on. There's lots of beauty and interest in the world that isn't to do with what I used to. 

For now, Vass is focused on his writing. It’s a creative outlet that the accident has had no impact on. He acknowledges the disability community has been invaluable with his difficult transition, helping to navigate the “obstacles of fitting into a world that doesn't really think too hard about disability!”

His new book is out now. Available where all good books are sold. For those who enjoy living life on the edge or being one with nature.  

Not Set in Stone: The passion and consequence of a mountain life by David Vass, $39.99 RRP (Potton & Burton)