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category: Sports & Recreation
published: Sep 2013
publisher: RMB | Rocky Mountain Books

Finding Jim

by Susan Oakey-Baker

tagged: mountaineering, adventurers & explorers, death, grief, bereavement

Finding Jim describes Susan Oakey-Baker’s struggle to confront the realities of life after the death of her husband, renowned mountain guide Jim Haberl, the first Canadian to summit the most difficult mountain in the world: K2. For fifteen years they had spent time adventuring together around the world: skiing the Himalaya, rafting in Nepal and mountaineering in North America. In time, they got married, solidified a home for themselves in Whistler, British Columbia, and planned on starting a family. But the future Susan had imagined was not meant to be, and when Jim was killed in an avalanche in the University Range of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska, she was faced with a loss greater than anything she ever could have expected.

After Jim’s death, Susan spent time retracing the adventures they took together, in a desperate and obsessive attempt to gather and hold on to as many memories of him as she could. She travelled to the place in Alaska where he lost his life; searched the Queen Charlotte Islands where they had first met; trekked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro where they had journeyed the year before his death; and scoured the hills around their Whistler home for traces of the man she had expected to spend the rest of her life with.

In the spirit of books like Joan Didion’sThe Year of Magical Thinking and Maria Coffey’s Fragile Edge, Susan Oakey-Baker writes eloquently of her efforts to relive and reanalyze her husband's death, to defy the pain that such a loss causes and embrace the healing power of mountains, adventure and wilderness as she reimagines her new life.

About the Author

Susan Oakey-Baker has twenty years of outdoor experience, having spent time ski touring, mountaineering, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting and biking all over the world. She has worked as a nationally certified backpacking guide in Africa, Nepal and North America and has guided more than 100 people, ranging in age from 16 to 85, to the top of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, for the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia. Her photographs and writing have been published in Pique magazine, the Alpine Club of Canada Gazette and the Canadian Alpine Journal. She lives in Whistler, British Columbia with her husband, Joe, and their 6-year-old son, Sam.

Editorial Reviews

Sue Oakey's story of love, loss, struggle and growth is more like an experience than a read. It is as if Sue took me by the hand and gently guided me through her journey.—Sharon Wood, first Canadian woman to summit Mount Everest

Climbers should take note. While the larger climbing literature seems commercially consumed with hyper-masculine accounts of crisis, calamity, risk, and danger, Finding Jim is another in a growing body of writing that places on view the other side of the mountaineering story — those left at home, those left “where the mountain casts its shadow,” to quote another Coffey title. —Zac Robinson, BC Studies

In this emotionally intense memoir, Sue Oakey explores the psychology of risk and paints a moving portrait of those called by the mountain as well as those left behind. Finding Jim is a thoughtful and intelligent meditation on risk, grief, memory, pain, and love. It left me with wet eyes and a full heart. I commend Sue Oakey for her bravery, her honesty, her strength, and her insight.—Angie Abdou, author of The Bone Cage and The Canterbury Trail

The sudden loss of a loved one can cause love and sadness to weld. In this courageous, heart-true story, Sue Oakey charts her brave journey into and out of the labyrinth of grief.—Fred Stenson, author of The Great Karoo

In this touching memoir, Sue Oakey-Baker charts her harrowing journey through grief after the death of her husband in a mountaineering accident. Writing from the heart, she recounts her struggle to rebuild a new life around his loss, and how she slowly found her way back to love.—Maria Coffey, author of Explorers of the Infinite and Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow

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