I wasn’t really thinking I’d particularly like this book, as I’m not into mountain climbing and cannot comprehend that urge to climb something just because it is there and to put your life in danger doing so. But I honestly couldn’t put the book down; and all the time I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.

The book tells the true story of Joe Simpson’s and Simon Yates’ attempt to climb a previously unclimbed mountain in the Peruvian Andes. Their attempt is successful, but things go wrong on the descent when Joe breaks his leg. This type of injury usually means you are left for dead as it is impossible to get down yourself, and impossible for your climbing partner to bring help back to you before you die of cold. Simon, however, is determined not to abandon his friend and puts himself in great danger by painstakingly lowering the injured Joe down the mountain. Their successful return to their camp at the foot of mountain seems achievable until Joe is lowered over a sudden edge that they both did not suspect was there. Unable to communicate with one another, due to their distance apart and the howling wind, Simon holds on to Joe’s hanging weight on the rope for hours not knowing if he is alive or dead. Finally, close to collapse himself and with no knowledge of Joe’s situation, Simon has to cut the rope binding them, in order to survive himself. Amazingly Joe survives the fall into a crevasse, and then has to fight his injuries, and the demons and terrors in his mind, to get back to camp alone and near to death. Simon also gets back to camp, but with overwhelming feelings of guilt at the choice he has had to make.

It is an amazing story, really gripping. The back of the book tells the summary of the story, and usually this would spoil the enjoyment of the book as you know the end result. However, I found it actually added to the excitement of the book, as you’re not busy thinking about what could happen, but rather trying to fathom how on earth Joe manages to achieve it, and appreciating the enormous determination he shows.

It is a very inspiring story, and demonstrates how determined the will to survive is. I didn’t really understand all the mountaineering terms mentioned so sometimes struggled to imagine the views they were facing or the action they were taking, but overall that didn’t really matter.

I am full of admiration for both Joe and Simon, they both faced extreme decisions and extreme demons in their minds. I don’t think I’d be as strong as either of them. It is also very well written. Luckily Joe is an excellent writer (as well as a climber); building the tension and describing the minutiae in a fascinating way, as well as describing so accurately how your mind and thoughts can both support you and add to your terrors. He needed to be both physically determined and mentally determined, especially when in the terrifying crevasse.

I didn’t want the book to end, in fact, and have been busy recommending it to anyone that will listen. This is a story that stays with you for a long time, and is definitely one of the most memorable and influential books I have ever read.

Touching The Void (Paperback)

By (author): Joe Simpson

Touching the Void
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