Tuesday, May 13, 2008

*Touching the Void* is Awesome

I love survival literature like *Into Thin Air* by Jon Krakauer (the true account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster) and *Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the U.S.S. Indianapolis* by Pete Nelson (the incredible story of the WWII ship sunk by a Japanese torpedo, leaving hundreds of men floating in shark-infested waters). There is something about the story of the struggle to stay alive in the face of desperate, hopeless circumstances that sort of renews my faith in the worthiness of the human struggle. There is also something to be said for a story that leaves your heart pounding and your jaw on the floor-- which mine certainly was as I neared the climax of *Touching the Void*. I felt like I had left Loca Mocha coffee shop and been transported to the slopes of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Fantastic!
Back in 1985. Simon Yates and Joe Simpson were a couple of young, daredevil mountain climbers who decided to tackle the West Face of Siula Grande, a 21,000 ft. mountain in the Peruvian Andes. They successfully summitted the mountain using that route, but, on the descent, Simpson fell and broke his leg. An accident like this usually means death for the victim because there is almost no way to rescue someone in that situation. Simpson and Yates, however, manage to work together and get Simpson lowered several thousand feet down the mountain, until Simpson fell over a cliff and, as far as Yates knew, into a deep fissure in the ice. Yates had no choice but to CUT THE ROPE, as Simpsons body weight was beginning to pull Yates off the mountain. The account only gets more gripping and incredible, as Simpson, by himself, with a broken leg, with no food and water, manages to get off the mountain and back to base camp.
If you enjoy taking a glimpse into the minds of those who are driven by challenge, extreme danger, and extraordinary will, you won't be disappointed by *Into the Void* by Joe Simpson. 4 out of 4 bananas.

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