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Near Death in the Mountains: True Stories of Disaster and Survival (Vintage Departures) Paperback – July 8, 2008
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Each episode takes you on a different climb, whether on a glacier, an impossible face of sheer rock covered in ice, or across a snowfield which has crevices hundreds of feet deep laying in wait like an ominous booby-trap.
There is one commonality among the collected stories, safety! Though there were many near death experiences, and some actual deaths described, it was not because they ignored caution. Rather, it was wind, ice, snow, or hidden dangers. One climber's death was caused by a hernia which could not be treated on the mountain. A doctor, part of the climbing team, could not save her. An unusual burial was devised by the group and she was given last rites as though at sea. They wrapped her in a bag and let her fall gently down the mountain to a hundred foot field of snow. For their safety and survival reasons they could not bring her back.
There is a short coming in this anthology which you discover when you start reading them. It is the special terminology of mountaineers. Having a good vocabulary and a dictionary will not assist in understanding this jargon. After reading several of these breathe-taking adventures you understand what an ice ax can do and how essential it is to all climbers. Some gear which they attach to their boots, have the same purpose, but the type used is dictated by the terrain.Read more ›
Can you imagine being stranded in an ice cave at eight thousand feet, the raging wind gusting in excess of 100 m.p.h., frostbite swelling your hands and feet so badly you can't even dress yourself, you become delirious from lack of water, and are unaware of the passage of time? These conditions can be part of the countless, serious conditions the mountain climber may encounter.
Near Death in the Mountains features some stories well suited to the seasoned veteran, who can appreciate the detailed and technical accounts. (I was mostly lost.) Aspiring climbers can learn a great deal from these comprehensive and broad narratives.
The book also includes accounts more suited to the adventure reader. The vividness of description brings the rugged mountain peaks clearly to your mind. The terror of the wind comes alive as you hear its furry and feel the intense cold encompass the exhausted climbers. The possibility to freeze your fingers, nose, or toes in only moments of exposure becomes a startling reality.
Near Death in the Mountains lays it all on the line, with distressing accounts of carelessness, gung-ho attitudes, or over-confidence resulting in the loss life or limbs. However, extraordinary courage, strength, and endurance in the pursuit of a dream give others a positive picture of the sport.
Don't forget an extra blanket. There is a blizzard between the pages and you'll soon be engulfed!
After you read this book, its impact will affect you for the rest of your life!
Armchair Interviews agrees.
For kids, you will want to prepare them for some specific mountain climbing vocabulary -- abseil, couloir, traverse, piton, crampon, crevasse, bivouac, belay, cornice.
What struck me about these story was how well they were written -- these are very literary stories, great for reading out loud to my family of boys. Spellbinding, every one.