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on 25 January 2000
In 1985 two English climbers set out to climb the remote western face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. The face had repulsed several previous attempts, and despite the odds the two experienced Alpinists made the summit. It was during the descent that the author fell down a small ice cliff and broke his leg. The few paragraphs describing what happens when his climbing partner reaches him, and the descriptions of what is going through their minds and what is said and what is not said is perhaps one of the most tense things in the book. What follows is perhaps one of the most outstanding and dramatic accounts of the human will to survive ever written. Simpson wrote the book whilst recovering from his injuries and has admitted that he found reliving the ordeal painfull. Consequently he wrote the book in a very succinct fashion; he does not use ten words if he can use one, and he always chooses the words well. This book is real edge of the seat stuff, and I read it through in one night, dosed up on coffee, and turned up at work the next day babbling about the book. My advice is don't start reading it if you have work the next day. I have spoken to several other people who have read it and without exception they have found it memorable. A truly remarkable book, one you will remember for a long time. Now move the mouse to the order button !
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on 23 January 2006
I think this is a wonderful book and I am only a teenager. Simpson gives you a detailed account of his ordeal on Siula Grande. It is one of the few books that have you looking upon life differently and consider that maybe there is more to life and death and anything in between. He tells us how terrible dying alone is and how much he longed for company on those fateful nights.
Simpson gives good descriptions on the technical side of mountaineering and the photos of Siula Grande are absolutly wonderful. I was also quite shocked to hear that Simon Yates, Simpsons climbling partner, was harshly criticised about cutting the rope, as to me it was the only option to save at least one of their lives, and as a catch22 situation, one of them or both of them was bound to die. However but got away with it and I'm sure it is something no human could ever even imagine was possible.
All in all, a superb book and I recomend it to anyone, climber or not, because I honestly could not put it down and kept re-reading it for a month.
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This book recounts an amazing tale of courage, fortitude, and the will to live, despite dire circumstances. The author, Joe Simpson, and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, attempted to ascend a perilous section of the Peruvian Andes. Near the summit, tragedy struck when Joe, up over 19,000 feet, fell and hit a slope at the base of a cliff, breaking his right leg, rupturing his right knee, and shattering his right heel. Beneath him was a seemingly endless fall to the bottom.
When Simon reached him, they both knew that the chances for getting Joe off the mountain were virtually non-existent. Yet, they fashioned a daring plan to to do just that. For the next few hours, they worked in tandem through a snow storm, and managed a risky, yet effective way of trying to lower Joe down the mountain.
About three thousand feet down, Joe, who was still roped to Simon, dropped off an edge and found himself now free hanging in space six feet away from an ice wall, unable to reach it with his axe. The edge was over hung about fifteen feet above him. The dark outline of a crevasse lay about a hundred feet directly below him.
Joe could not get up, and Simon could not get down. In fact, Joe's weight began to pull Simon off the mountain. So, Simon was finally forced to do the only thing he could do under the circumstances. He cut the rope, believing that he was consigning his friend to certain death. Therein lies the tale.
What happens next is sure to make one believe in miracles. This is an absorbing read and one of the great stories in mountaineering literature.
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on 25 March 2004
Joe Simpson doesn't tell us much about where he's from or what he is about as a person. This actually gives the book its intimacy. As the cruel and miraculous events of his story play out, Joe's struggles to survive become a voice crying in the wilderness, a voice that the captivated reader almost comes to feel as his own. I couldn't believe what he was going through, and yet felt very much as if I was with him all the way. Touching The Void is a book where you take an unrelenting horrible trip and savor each victory over death with elation. There is plenty of food for thought; especially about the infamous rope-cutting incident, and Joe's realisation that his partner on the mountain is already thinking that he's dead as soon as he's hurt himself. It is a book I'd recommend for everyone, say, 13 years and older. It not only leaves you with wanting more of the same: a taste for more epic stories that essentially take place in the author's skull, even as they physically labor. My hunger to go deeper and further led me to Peter Hillary's kaleidoscopic memoir `In The Ghost Country'. While there's been nothing yet in the mainstream press about the book -- probsably because Hillary was all over the news six months ago, with the 50th anniversary of his father's (and Tenzing Norgay's) historic climb on Mount Everest) -- but there is a real word-of-mouth buzz happening with `In The Ghost Country'. It is a masterpiece, where you start out thinking it's one kind of book and find out -- in its overall effect, more than in its individual stories -- it's like nothing else you've ever read. It made me believe you can really talk to the dead, when in extremis anyway. Deserves to be a classsic as much as Joe Simpson's book, and through great democratic forums like this one, it's becoming one.
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on 19 August 2005
This book is addictive. You just can't leave it alone once you start it.
Although I have no head for heights, Mountains & those who pit themselves against such awesome and spectacular obstacles hold a deep fascination for me.
When Joe Simpson fell and injured himself, he was a dead man.
In such an extreme environment as the Peruvian Andes, if you can't help yourself you are doomed. Yet Joe's partner, Simon Yates, took the first of some very courageous decisions & set about extricating himself & Joe from a very precarious situation...
Such determination & the sheer guts displayed by these two men in the face of such overwhelming difficulties makes your heart soar, when set against the normal world in which most of us live.
If Gallantry, Humanity, determination to survive against and defeat an implacable foe, the indomitability of the human spirit despite the frailty of it's physical shell are the qualities that inspire you then read this and be uplifted.
Joe Simpson & Simon Yates faced their demons together and alone, fought them and defeated them. I wish them well.
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Putting aside the storyline of `Touching the Void' my reason for submitting this review is to pay homage to a masterpiece of writing. If I had to select a single volume as the very best from my collection of over 1,000 climbing and mountaineering books it would be Joe Simpson's `Touching the Void'. It is unrivalled; so with almost 100 mainly 5-star reviews already placed for this Amazon offering there appears little need to add another. However I concentrate on manner of writing. I have just submitted a review of Mick Fowler's second autobiographical book `On Thin Ice' in which, though I saluted his imaginative and courageous approach to extreme and exacting expeditions around the world, I was critical of his writing style. I suggested Mick Fowler's modesty led to understatements by shunning drama and making too light of tensions - and therefore resulted in dryness of writing.

Not so for Joe Simpson. With the `Touching the Void' account of his ascent and accident in the Peruvian Andes he avoids these traits and he excels in his appeal to general readers as well as climbers - and he makes it possible to have faith in miracles! Readers are skilfully manoeuvred into facing his challenges, sharing his emotions and living his nightmare survival. In addition to evocative and captivating descriptions of both physical and mental aspects, writings seem able to inspire readers and may even motivate them to meet hardships. It is difficult to credit the story is non-fiction, and this highlights qualities of Joe Simpson as a writer. `Touching the Void' has all the intrigue and suspense of a great novel as it grips and thrills readers, who must realise Joe lives to tell the tale, but cannot be convinced until the very end.

As a mountaineering author Joe Simpson reigns supreme - `Touching the Void' is a masterpiece.
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on 27 March 2000
Sometime in the early 90s I read a brief article that described the awful decision that was forced on Simon Yates one night on a mountain in the Peruvian Andes. The image of that situation stayed with me although I had long forgotten the names of those involved and the title of the book that chronicled their ill-fated climb. Eventually I got around to searching the 'Mountaineering' section of a bookstore and found the book. I have no interest in climbing mountains but from the first page I was held by Joe Simpson's excellent and effective descriptions of their ascent and his subsequent accident. The life or death situation that faced Simon Yates may be the most sensational aspect of this book but there is much more there for the reader. Joe Simpson gives armchair adventurers like myself the ability to taste some of the fear and elation that the real adventurers experience but he does so with humility and humour. Most of us can only imagine how it feels to climb a mountain but we can all empathise with his reluctance to get out of his warm sleeping bag to make the first cup of tea of the day. Like most other readers I couldn't put this book down and I read it from cover to cover in one sitting.
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on 30 December 2002
I am not a climber and came across this book by accident. I was gripped from the first chapter. What an amazing story that deals with friendship, courage, the will to live, not giving up, human motivation to keep going when all seems lost.
As a doctor and a teacher i will recommned this book to patients and students & hope that some of the authors' determination will imspire them to better things.
Much, much more than a book about climbing but more a guide on survival for all of us!
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Even by reading the blurb on the back cover, you're hooked by this tale. Better still, the contents of the book more than live up to the blurb.
Let's be clear - I'm not a mountaineer. The most extreme I go is hillwalking on mossy, patently un-terrifying hillsides. But that's the beauty of this book - you don't need any specialist knowledge or experience to understand the immense poignancy of the tale, and the danger Joe Simpson finds himself in.
I read this book in three days - probably a record for me. 'Unputdownable' is a convenient and hugely over-used word these days, but this book is genuinely unputdownable!
As other reviewers have said here, the amazing thing about Joe's writing style is that you find yourself BEING him, his 'character' throughout his terrifying and all-but-fatal ordeal. As soon as his accident happens, you immediately forget that he got out alive and become immersed in his situation.
It's not just a rip-roaring tale of death-defying mountaineering, though. There are a few points where you snap out of the story for a moment, and consider what YOU would do in the circumstances. And it's almost invariably a less courageous decision than Joe, or his unsung partner Simon, takes.
Exciting, engaging, challenging, thought-provoking, inspiring. This book is all of these and more. I challenge anyone to get more inspiration per £ than reading this book.
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on 25 December 2004
I enjoyed reading this extraordinary tale of two men on a mountaineering expedition which went wrong with nearly fatal results. I am no nearer understanding the attitudes or motivation of the people who do this than before I read it, but perhaps the mystery made it interesting. Certainly the courage and determination of Joe Simpson, in escaping the terrible situation in which he found himself, makes for gripping, "survival-against-all-odds" reading.
He is articulate about his emotions and reactions, and is especially honest about his fears and anxieties from the outset - surprising for someone who, later in the book, expresses distaste for psychotherapy and the help he is offered to overcome shock and trauma.
His descriptions of the mountain scenery are fantastic and there are beautiful photographs (1997 edition). The mountain took on personal characteristics - "malevolence", menace, etc, in the writer`s mind as his situation deteriorated, and the descriptions of his mental and emotional responses are equally intricate and well-expressed.
Both men review the events from a later perspective at the end of the book.
I would recommend the book as a great read.
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