From Publishers Weekly
Madgic claims that "in the annals of hiking tragedies caused by lightning," an ill-fated climb up Yosemite's famed Half Dome mountain by five experienced hikers in 1985 was "one of the most calamitous... of all time." Two of the hikers were killed and three sustained life-altering injuries after they decided to ignore signs of an oncoming thunderstorm and continued climbing a mountain whose peak had been struck by lightning during every month of that year. Madgic, a writer on the outdoors and a Half Dome climbing vet, delivers a well-written and thoroughly investigated account, but his real subject is less the hikers and more the "raw, fearsome power" of lightning. While he provides in-depth profiles of each hiker and their shared enthusiasm for risk taking as a way of conquering "personal fear," he makes it clear from the start that none of them "really knew the capacities, behaviors and dangers of thunderstorms." Madgic provides a fascinating—if somewhat stomach-churning—account of how the walls of a cave the hikers took refuge in conducted the electrical charge that devastated them, and his contribution to the adventure category is at once a terrifying story and an urgent cautionary tale. Photos. (June)
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The sheer face of Half Dome, the huge granite rock formation in Yosemite National Park, extends 2,200 feet from its base to its crest. Madgic gives a brief history of its early climbers, then tells the story of five hikers who began their climb on the evening of July 27, 1985, in the face of an imminent thunderstorm. One of three groups of climbers that day, it was headed by Adrian Esteban and Tom Rice. They planned to backpack to the top, camp there, and celebrate Rice's birthday the next day. Madgic offers a biographical sketch of the climbers and gives a vivid description of storms that frequently occur across the Sierra Nevada. A bolt of lightning killed two of the climbers and gravely injured three others. Madgic recounts their daring rescue by paramedics in a helicopter, which transported them to a medical center in Sacramento. This is a penetrating account of this tragedy. George CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved