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Touching The Void - Joe Simpson

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Joe Simpson, with just his partner Simon Yates, tackled the unclimbed West Face of the remote 21,000 foot Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in June 1995. But before they reached the summit, disaster struck. A few days later, Simon staggered into Base Camp, exhausted and frostbitten, to tell their non-climbing companion that Joe was dead. For three days he wrestled with guilt as they prepared to return home. Then a cry in the night took them out with torches, where they found Joe, badly injured, crawling through the snowstorm in a delirium. Far from causing Joe's death, Simon had paradoxically saved his friend's life. What happened, and how they dealt with the psychological traumas that resulted when Simon was forced into the appalling decision to cut the rope, makes not only an epic of survival but a compelling testament of friendship.

 

 

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I've struggled to read this but have forced myself to finish it as it is a possible text to teach for the new GCSE English starting in 2010. Due to a large amount of technical vocabulary I wasn't able to picture clearly enough what Simpson was describing to be enthralled by the storytelling. It simply wasn't a book that I could lose myself in. Simpson's determination to survive is impressive as is his acceptance of his climbing partner's decision. I'm sure it you are a climber you would find it far more accessible.

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I've struggled to read this but have forced myself to finish it as it is a possible text to teach for the new GCSE English starting in 2010.

Really? I wouldn't fancy having to teach it - although I have successfully used the extract where he cuts the rope.

Due to a large amount of technical vocabulary I wasn't able to picture clearly enough what Simpson was describing to be enthralled by the storytelling. It simply wasn't a book that I could lose myself in.

I can totally see where you're coming from, but I found it strangely compelling, given that I only understood about 50% of what he was talking about! I sat up until 3am finishing it. It was a long time ago, but it's still a proud notch on my bookshelf.

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Really? I wouldn't fancy having to teach it - although I have successfully used the extract where he cuts the rope..

 

I can't see it working with the students I teach but I can see that there are certain demographics that it could be successful with.

 

AQA have put some very interesting set texts in their new specs including "Mr Pip" and "Purple Hibiscus".

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Not sure if this is in the right place, but it was either this or Biography I thought. I'm sure someone will move it if necessary.

 

Even though the story that Joe Simpson tells within this book was known, reading about it was both eye opening and emotional.

 

It relates the story of Joe and his climbing friend Simon who, in 1985 set out to climb one of the unconquered peaks in the Peruvian Andes. Their base camp was at least two days ride from civilisation with only one other person with them, Richard, who was to remain at base camp. For those who don’t know the story of this climb, suffice to say that both Joe and Simon have to face arduous and dangers conditions and make desperate decisions that has probably changed them totally.

 

This story need not have been told at all. But the fact is that the decisions that were taken on that climb polarised the climbing fraternity and other outside it too into two camps; those who thought Simon made the right the decision and those who did not. For this reason Joe wrote this book.

 

The way this story is told is both emotional and factual. Some of the climbing terminology was difficult to understand at first but as the climb unfolded that becomes secondary to the emotional turmoil and activities of the climbers themselves. Despite some graphic descriptions of physical hardships and human suffering as well as the mental torment both Simon and Joe go through, when you get to the end of the book you know that it was worse, far worse, than the way Joe has expressed it.

 

This is a book that I didn’t want to read when I started – it felt too remote for my understanding – yet the prose kept holding me and compelling me to read on. An amazing adventure – a very personal journey – very well written book – something that will haunt me for some time.

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I really enjoyed this book (and the subsequent movie adaptation) as well. The moral dilemma that Simon faces is the real talking point of the book, but it was Joe's journey back to base camp that stuck most clearly in my memory - such determination to survive against all the odds.

 

If you haven't seen the film, I'd recommend giving it a try. I found it helped me visualise some of the terminology I'd struggled to get to grips with in the book.

 

By the way, I believe there is already a thread for this book, so a merging may be in order.

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I haven't read this book, but I think Joe Simpson is a truly inspirational commentator. I saw a documentary he did which mentioned this book, but was mainly about three german guys who were the first to climb the Eiger.

 

Climbing is a subject I have little interest in from a personal point of view, but I'd defy anyone not to be touched by this. I have also walked round the grave yard in Grindlewald at the foot of the Eiger which is filled with the bodies of so many young men who've met their fate on that mountain.

 

Edit:

By the way although it was touching it wasn't just a sentimental tale about three guys who sadly died in the pursuit of a hobby. It was incredibly inspirational.

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Just finished reading this book this morning - utterly awesome. I agree with some of the comments above about the technicalities of climbing, but perseverence brought great rewards. The quality of the prose just sucks you in.

 

It is quite simply an extraordinary story. A tale of grit, fortitude, courage, determination, self-reliance and an utter unwillingness to give up despite the enormous odds stacked against him.

 

I also like the descriptions of the intimacy of the relationship between the two men. It is touching, yet completely devoid of mushiness. The stark realities of their predicament left no room for sentimentality.

 

By the way, I note that the first post in this thread states that the accident occurred before they reached the summit. However, they did reach the summit.

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