Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival. Makes you wonder why anyone takes up mountaineering!
I have never even been tempted to climb mountains. I am not a thrill-seeker, at least one who wants to risk their life, but I do have a strange fascination for those who take on the most challenging adventures. I am addicted to reading books on an extreme adventure.
‘Touching the Void”, a book I have read several times, follows two climbers, Joe Simpson (the author of the book) and Simon Yates (whose personal narrative is also documented) who decided to the 6,344-metre (20814-foot) Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andres in 1985. It is a challenging peak, the first successful ascent was in 1936, but Simpson and Yates decided to take on the previously unclimbed West Face. Their route took them up ice walls with precipitous drops and along ridges with dangerous cornices, spending their night’s camping in snow caves to avoid freezing cold temperatures. They successfully reached the summit, their real problems started on the way down and the closing in of the weather.
They chose not to come down the same route on the West Face, primarily due to the weather, instead choosing to descend on the North Ridge. Unfortunately, Joe Simpson fell and did a real number on his knee which meant he could not put weight on it, making a normal descent impossible. So, they chose to lower Joe down the mountain on a 300-foot length of rope. This worked pretty well for a few thousand feet until Joe ended up falling into a crevasse. Simon Yates had to make a very difficult decision. Should he cut the rope, meaning Joe would almost certainly die, or save himself? He chose to cut the rope. I will leave the rest of the story for you to read.
If you love reading adventure stories this is a book for you. It is very well written – the descriptions of the mountain, their journey and the drama are incredible. It is no accident that this book became a best-seller. It is also a short book so it would be a great read for a journey!
For those people who are not readers – hard to believe that such people exist – the book has been made into a film. The trailer is below.