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Virgin on Insanity

Coming of age on the world’s toughest mountains

Hardback (256pp)
  • Hardback £20.00
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Outwardly, 'Britain's most experienced teenage Alpinist' is a brave young mountaineer. But he's not experienced at all, at least not in the way he really wants to be. Behind his death defying climbs there lurks a great deal of fear - fear of the opposite sex, fear of failure, fear of not being 'man enough'.

He seeks manhood in the mountains, yet he believes he will only truly gain it by losing something. Harrowing escapades in Scotland, the Alps and Alaska are interspersed by excruciating sexual encounters and unsettling hitchhiking rides. When the mountains fail him, he seeks meaning with a religious cult in Colorado. Eventually he succeeds in his quest, only to find that he's lost more than he bargained for.

In this memoir of youth in the 1970s and '80s, the modern reader will learn there is nothing new about selfies, teenage insecurity or suicidal fanaticism. Told with eye watering honesty, Steve Bell's portrayal of what drove him to flirt with death on treacherous mountains takes us into virgin territory. On the well trodden heights of mountain writing, Virgin on Insanity breaks new ground.

Steve Bell started climbing in 1975 at the age of sixteen. He soon became one of Britain’s up-and-coming young mountaineers, notching up winter ascents of the Matterhorn and Eiger north faces before he was twenty-one, as well as numerous first ascents of rock climbs in the south-west of England.

He spent a season with the British Antarctic Survey and four years as a Royal Marines Officer, before co-founding Himalayan Kingdoms, a trekking and mountaineering company. He pioneered the concept of commercial high-altitude expeditions in the UK and in 1993 became the first Briton to guide clients to the summit of Mount Everest.

In 1995 he founded Jagged Globe, which is now one of the world’s leading mountaineering companies. With JG he has led expeditions to all of the coveted seven summits, the highest point on all seven continents. He edited the book, Seven Summits (Mitchell Beazley, 2000), which was published in five countries in four languages.

In 2004 Bell emigrated to Australia with his wife and three children. Divorced in 2009, he was diagnosed with a chronic back condition the same year. He is a writer, public speaker and entrepreneur, and lives near Melbourne with his wife, artist Rossy Reeves.

  • Title: Virgin on Insanity
  • Sub-title: Coming of age on the world’s toughest mountains
  • Imprint: Vertebrate Publishing
  • ISBN: 978-1-910240-83-0
  • Rights: Worldwide
  • Publication: 1 June 2016
  • Edition: First
  • Author: Steve Bell
  • Classification: Climbing and mountaineering (WSZG);Autobiography: sport (BGSA); United Kingdom: Great Britain (1DBK); Alps (1DFHA); Alaska (1KBBWK); Himalayas (1FKAH)
  • Size: 234mm x 156mm
  • Extent: 256 pages, black and white text with 2x 8pp colour plates
  • Cover: Hardback 
  • Retail price: £20.00
'BY FAR the best climbing book I've read.'
George Mallory II
‘Virgin on Insanity’ is a really well-written and admirably honest book, whose descriptions of Bell’s adventures in the Alps in particular will delight many.'
Trek and Mountain
'One of the more gripping climbing autobiographies ever told ... a searingly honest coming-of-age account which takes the reader to the edge in so many ways. Highly recommended.'  
Matt Dickinson
'Virgin on Insanity is the autobiographical account of Steve Bell’s early years as a young emerging climber, moving from provincial newbie to world stage player. His exceptionally well-crafted writing is a gripping, frank and uncanny journey through his extraordinary early life. Bell’s rise to rock athlete and then on to itinerant super-alpine wanderer is a tale worth taking in on its own merit – but there is so much more to be had in this book that puts it well above the ‘this is what I did where and with who’ style of bio’s.'
Mark Glaister,
'For anyone with experience in mountaineering, Virgin On Insanity will remind you of the best of the highs and lows. For those looking to find an escape while locked away on a winter’s day, this masterful tale will whisk you far from your reading chair. It may even inspire your next trip to the mountains.'
‘Readers can take advantage and be exhilarated by compelling and gripping tales from just a brief period of Steve Bell’s life when his exploits merged mountains and manhoodreaders can take advantage and be exhilarated by compelling and gripping tales from just a brief period of Steve Bell’s life when his exploits merged mountains and manhood.’
Doug Elliot, Amazon

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