Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#41 Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

This is a short and quite straightforward recounting of a climb that very nearly turned disastrous. Well, it was actually disastrous, but the author, with a little luck and a lot of determination was able to survive. It is, essentially a survival story and a story about the triumph of the human spirit.

Joe Simpson and his friend Simon Yates made an attempt to climb a previously unclimed West face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They were able to reach the summit and things were going relatively well until Simpson fell and broke his tibia. Yates then had to tie him to a rope and lower him down the mountain. However, Yates, unable to see far ahead, lowered Simpson into a cliff. Faced with no other choice but to cut off the rope or be carried down himself, Yates cut the rope connecting to Simpson and sent him to his presumably certain death. However, Simpson dragged and hopped his way back to their base camp, through grinding pain, fatigue, thirst and hunger. He arrived just hours before Yates, thinking that he was a goner for sure, was set to pack up their camp.

The story is fast moving, and even though you know Simpson survives (duh), very thrilling. It is excruciating to read. It feels very painful. And you are left with admiration for Simpson's will to live. And more, the experience did not stop him from climbing again.

I used to do some mountain climbing, but my country being tropical, it is all fairly chill. It is very fun and challenging and just awesome to be on top of the world. Having said that, I would never ever climb in high altitude. It just seems so dangerous and I'm not sure I've got it in me. But yeah, the book. It's good. Exciting and inspiring.

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