Everything changed for Sophie Cairns when she was thirty and a party-loving journalist living in China.

Her father died so suddenly that she arrived at his bedside two hours too late.

In her grief, she defied her chronic asthma and climbed the world’s seven highest volcanoes to raise funds for charity in his memory.

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Now, she is sharing her journey of redemption through mountain climbing, from Papua New Guinea to Russia by way of Antarctica, in a riveting and heartfelt new book.

Climbing the Seven Volcanoes - A Search for Strength was published on October 15.

Sophie, who was diagnosed with severe asthma at the age of three, was an up-and-coming reporter in Shanghai who had no time for anything except looking for the next big story.

But everything came crashing down when her father Anthony died unexpectedly in 2008, just two weeks after he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

She grabbed the next flight but returns two hours too late. Sophie and her father never got to say goodbye.

In the dark, grief-stricken days that follow, Sophie realised that she has spent so much time overseas that she could barely recall any memories with her father. “You were hardly here for the last years of dad’s life,” Sophie’s mum says. “You’ll have less to remember.”

Guilt-ridden over missing her father’s final moments, Sophie, who was based in Denham but now lives in Scotland, defied her chronic asthma and decided to try and set a world record in his memory - by climbing the highest volcano on each continent.

She started mountain climbing following her father’s death and in 2013 and 2014, attempted to climb the highest volcano on each continent.

Mountain climbing was part self-punishment, part search for redemption - and it also helped to jog Sophie’s memories of her father.

Despite the physical dangers and unfriendly teammates, Sophie made it to the summit of Mount Sidley in Antarctica.

She also summited Pico de Orizaba in Mexico.

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However, crisis struck when Sophie failed to get to the top of Ojos del Salado, the world’s highest volcano.

She made a second attempt, in spite of her worsening asthma and lack of money - but she was forced to turn back just thirty metres short of the summit and her world record attempt was over.

Sophie started to question the premise of her project and realised that it had partly been a search for personal glory.

Ignoring her increasing self-doubt and failing health, she decided to finish her volcanoes project, world record or no record - realising it was what her father would have wanted.

She managed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Damavand in Iran.

By the time she reaches the final volcano – Mount Elbrus in Russia – Sophie had reached the end of her tether.

Her asthma reduced her lung function to 74 per cent. She was sick of the constant travel, the loneliness and the terrifying mountain slopes.

Sophie attempted Mount Elbrus, but gave up just above high camp.

She returned home in defeat. Her mood worsened when she realised that not all her restored memories of her father are joyful and some are better forgotten.

To her despair, she realised she had made the same mistake she made as a journalist – always being preoccupied by some future goal at the expense of her present life. Sophie’s ‘best’ friend was pregnant, and she is the last to know. Her mum takes on new hobbies and tells her only weeks later. Even Sophie’s cats didn’t recognise her.

Sophie had been so obsessed with climbing volcanoes that she was a stranger to her own life.

After several weeks, Sophie attempted to climb out of her funk and asked her pilot husband Douglas to take her on a flight in his two-seat propeller plane.

As he manoeuvred the plane through loops and barrel rolls, Sophie fought to master her fear and regain her nerve.

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She decided to have one last attempt at completing the volcanoes project, returning to Russia - and was a success this time.

The book shares her realisation that living means “being fully immersed in the here and now” and that she needed to witness “all of life’s moments - the good, the devastating, and the redeeming”.

Climbing the Seven Volcanoes - A Search for Strength, by Sophie Cairns available in hardback, Kindle, Kobo and iBook formats now. It is priced at £20.