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Touching the Void
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For the next few hours, through a snow storm, they work in tandem, and manage a risky, yet effective way of trying to lower Joe down the mountain. About three thousand feet down, Joe who is still roped to Simon, drops off an edge, and finds himself now free hanging in space six feet away from an ice wall, unable to reach it with his axe. The edge is over hung about fifteen feet above him. The dark outline of a crevasse lies about a hundred feet directly below him.
Joe couldn't get up, and Simon couldn't get down. In fact, Joe's weight began to pull Simon off the mountain. So, Simon was finally forced to do the only thing he could do under the circumstances. He cut the rope, believing that he was consigning his friend to certain death. Therein lies the tale.
What happens next is sure to make one believe in miracles.
Simpson and a climbing partner in an excess of youthful bravado planned a new route up a monster Andean peak in Peru. The area was remote and civilization was somewhere else. After an arduous ascent, Simpson fell and broke his leg while descending. The reader gradually realizes what a chilling horror has befallen the pair. They have no possibility of rescue; the mountain was almost unclimbable for two superb athletes with two good legs. How can they possibly get down when one of them is unable to walk?
Partner, Simon Yates, ropes Simpson to himself and tries to guide Simpson down who is forced to crawl, slide, and inch himself forward. Then Simpson goes over the edge of a cornice and is dangling with only the rope holding him over the void. Yates heroically digs in, but gradually he himself is being inexorably drawn to the chasm. He finally, with shuddering reluctance, cuts the rope, and Simpson falls many feet into a crevasse.
The rest of the book is Simpson's six-day excruciating journey down the mountain: his thoughts, hallucinations and agony. Simpson is a powerful writer without a trace of self-pity. He doesn't try to impress us with his stoicism - far from it, at times he is almost mad with fright. There is nothing lurid here; the book is exhausting, but thought provoking. You won't forget it easily, and you cannot help but wonder what it is like beyond the edge and into the maelstrom.
In the best portions of the book you get both Yates's and Simpson's thoughts about the accident, where they were and what was happening step by step in the days following the accident. You feel the pain, guilt, fear, and panic in both parties and get the idea that something fantastic occurred on Siula Grande.
I say you get the feeling because in the poorer portions of the book you do not understand why one `crevasse' is worse than another, why a `pear shaped cornice' is a bad omen, why it is hard to place a `friend' in a secure position on the mountain, and why a `bollard' is dubious. In Simpson's words one portion of the mountain blends into the other and you have to be told this portion is scary, or that he is making progressing, rather than seeing why he is scared or how he is making progress.
Simpson admits as much in the Epilogue to the book when he says `I simply could not find the words to express the utter desolation of the experience' and to be fair Simpson was not an experienced writer at the time of this book (he has written six since then).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Gripping and direct and honest account of a mountaineering extreme experiencePublished 3 days ago by Daniel Espinoza
First I saw the documentary and then immediately read the book. Now, about ten years later, I read the book again. It is just as good on this second reading. Read morePublished 19 days ago by BanjoRuth
I absolutely loved this book, and my only reason for 4 and not 5 stars is that I could have used a little more explanation of the terminology to help me understand what the terrain... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Miranda
I read this book in one long sitting. Definitely one of the most engaging books on mountaineering and survival. My best wishes to Joe and Simon.Published 29 days ago by sheri poland
A little bit of a slow read in the beginning unless you're an avid climber but definitely picks up bear the middle and turns into a great book.Published 1 month ago by heather
I read a paperback version of this book around 12 years ago on the recommendation of a friend. Normally a powerful new book has a shelf life of a few short months or years but the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by John Kean