Thursday, April 21, 2011

Can't touch this

Title: Touching the Void
Author: Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, both experienced climbers and mountaineers, set out to complete a first ascent of the west face of Siula Grande (an icy, storm-thrashed mountain in the Peruvian Andes). With a few difficulties and minor close calls, which are to be expected on a major ascent like that, they made the summit. Then everything went wrong.

The book is subtitled "The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival," before I was even a third of the way through, I was impressed that either man had survived. Both of them had terrifying falls which could have ended the trip and their lives. The biggest difference is that when Yates fell, he was caught by the rope, dangled free of the snow cliff, and managed to climb back up to Simpson. When Simpson fell, he landed on ice and shattered his knee.

I'm not providing any spoilers by telling you this; the whole story is well known. Even the back cover of the book tells you that Simpson broke his leg (bad news anywhere, but especially bad when you manage to break it in as spectacular a fashion as Simpson did, on top of a mountain, days from any medical support) and Yates had to help him down. It tells you that during the process of lowering his friend, something else went wrong, and Yates was forced to cut the rope, letting Simpson drop. Both men expected themselves--and each other--to die, but both survived. You don't read this book to find out what happened; you read it to find out how it happened. How both men struggled with the circumstances, their own decisions, and the harsh environment surrounding them. You read it to find out how they pushed themselves to survive, and find yourself wondering whether you could have done the same.

This book is subtitled

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posted by reyn at 9:37 AM


Blogger Elizabeth said...

Nice review, I liked how you focused on the hardships that both guys went through, not just Simpson. Anyway, definitely watch the documentary, it's pretty gripping.

4/26/2011 5:27 AM  

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