Touching The Void: The True Story Of One Man's Miraculous Survival

Paperback | February 28, 2004

byJoe Simpson

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Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, moments before he would have been pulled to his own death.

The next three days were an impossibly grueling ordeal for both men. Yates, certain that Simpson was dead, returned to base camp consumed with grief and guilt over abandoning him. Miraculously, Simpson had survived the fall, but crippled, starving, and severely frostbitten was trapped in a deep crevasse. Summoning vast reserves of physical and spiritual strength, Simpson crawled over the cliffs and canyons of the Andes, reaching base camp hours before Yates had planned to leave.

How both men overcame the torments of those harrowing days is an epic tale of fear, suffering, and survival, and a poignant testament to unshakable courage and friendship.

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From the Publisher

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was for...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.08 × 5.32 × 0.58 inPublished:February 28, 2004Publisher:Harpercollins PublishersLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0060730552

ISBN - 13:9780060730550

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from There's a Debate Here, But It Is the Wrong One. I never really understood what there was to debate in the "big debate" surrounding Touching the Void. Joe Simpson and Simon Yates made the first ascent of the west face of Siula Grande in 1985 but ran into some serious trouble coming back down. A storm kicked up, and Simpson fell on the ice, driving his tibia through his knee. His leg was a serious mess, and the pair tried to descend as fast as they could with the bad weather getting worse (more on that later). They made their descent with Yates helping Simpson the best he could until Simpson slipped over a cliff and found himself dangling in mid-air over a crevasse. Yates held onto Simpson from a crumbling belay seat he'd dug out of the snow and ice, feeling all of Simpson's weight dangling prone at the end of the rope. With his seat about to disintegrate, no visual contact with Simpson or the cliff, the weather getting worse, and the likelihood of both of them going over the cliff increasing with every second that he tried to hold on, Yates made the only decision he could -- he cut the rope. Enter the debate. Some say Yates should have held on to Simpson no matter what happened, even if it meant his own death, and some say (as I do) that he'd already done everything he could and cutting the rope was his only remaining option. I seriously don't understand why Yates' act is up for debate, though. Not only did his decision turn out to be the right one, a decision that saved both their lives, but how many of those who say Yates should have hung on, and question his ethics for not doing so, would have actually kept their knives in their pockets? Not many, I'd wager. This debate clouds the real issue in Touching the Void, however, which is that Simpson and Yates had no business being up on the mountain that day at all. Local guides had warned them about the weather atop Siula Grande, and their own senses told them, before they even started the ascent, that they were racing against a possible mountaintop blizzard. Their hubris pushed them on, though, and they put themselves in a situation that never should have been. Had they waited for the storm to pass, the next three days of climbing would have been clear and easy, but they took an unnecessary risk, a foolish risk, and nearly paid the ultimate price. My wife is a mountain guide who has walked in the shadow of Siula Grande many times, leading treks through the Peruvian Andes, and an old friend of mine went to Canada's Yamnuska Mountaineering school to become a guide (I am a dilettante when it comes to paddling and mountaineering, and I've done nothing like Erika and Curtis have, but I do love the extreme sports and have a healthy respect for the conventions that go along with them), and their response to Touching the Void is that the pair of them -- Yates and Simpson -- should have died for their stupidity. Erika , Curtis and many of their fellows were or are angry at Yates and Simpson for taking such a silly risk. Every ascent is dangerous enough without taking on dangers that are within one's ability to avoid. Their sport has enough difficulty being accepted without adding to the stigma of danger, and taking stupid risks gives mountaineering a bad name. The general perception is that mountaineering is a sport whose athletes pursue danger for the sake of danger. Yates' and Simpson's insane ascent up Siula Grande and their antics trying to recover from their error only perpetuate that perception. The book itself is actually quite compelling, despite my frustration with their decision to make the ascent in the first place. Moreover, Simpson's loyalty to Yates, even though Yates did cut him loose one dark and stormy night, is pretty impressive. I've heard many people who love this book say that it is a triumph of the human spirit; instead, I'd call it a triumph over human stupidity. Regardless, Touching the Void] is a hell of an interesting read, and I can guarantee you won't get bogged down in any dull moments. There simply aren't any.
Date published: 2009-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mountaineering must read. A must read if you enjoy outdoor literature. It has a magnetic pull from start to finish. Survival.
Date published: 2007-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You will read this in one sitting Whether you climb or not, this book is hard to put down. The story of Simpson's survival has it all; horror, pain, heartbreak, perseverance, triumph etc. Almost every one who reads this book finds themselves using the word "harrowing". I stopped climbing for awhile after reading this book. I was too freaked out (and not very good). Definitely the best book I've ever read about the sport.
Date published: 2006-05-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Touched by the Void This book can not be put down. The incredible true story of a climb gone bad. Joe Simpson reminds us that life is worth fighting for at all costs. This is the perfect book to get boys hooked on reading. I don't climb but my limbs ached with each page.
Date published: 2000-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Near Death Experience A harrowing true life story from Joe Simpson, a climber from Sheffield in the UK. Joe and his friend (Simon Yates) climb a mountain in South America. The story shows how quickly a climb in remote conditions can turn into a crisis. The book gives a very good account of the impossibility of dealing with a serious accident at high altitudes. Just such an event happens, and Joe is left for dead. Simon's part in this story is well described - just thinking about being incapable of helping your partner, when you are their only hope gives me the chills. Needless to say - Joe survives and his pragmatism helps him to reconcile his feelings about the experience - but get the book and read about how !
Date published: 1999-08-08