Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
Mountaineers will love it.
on 30 July 2010
Touching the Void is the first hand account of a mountaineer who survived a near fatal experience on an Andean mountain in Peru. Originally published in 1988, this book tells the story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates' disastrous ventures on the Siula Grande. The 2008 Vintage Classics edition has some updated retrospective comments in the afterword.
This book was brought to me by a friend who had just finished it and was really enthusiastic about it, and about how it showed the resourcefulness of mankind, and what a person could achieve if they had the will.
I must admit that mountaineering is not my cup of tea. This book was on the back foot with me from the off. I was, however, determined to read it and provide my comments to my enthusiastic friend.
Personal prejudices aside, let me start with the things that did not work for me, and finish on the more positive aspects of Touching the Void.
The book told me about two friends who, on their own admission in the book, tackled a dangerous climb without being properly prepared or provisioned.
This dangerous climb, for which they were ill prepared, was in a region of the world where there was no hope of help or support if anything went wrong.
The weather conditions they experienced were different from anything they had experienced before and they found themselves attempting to second-guess what the weather was going to do, and what the local climatic conditions were likely to be.
On the positive side, reading the book did give me a great sense of being on the mountain, or in the crevasse, or crawling over the rocky moraine. It was very graphic and I could imagine myself in the predicaments described.
Each of the climbers had to make hard decisions about life or death. I think the book conveyed the thoughts, feelings and moral dilemmas of each climber in a sensitive, effective and realistic fashion. It also put across the permanent effects their experiences have had on them, and the issues they have to deal with for the rest of their lives.
Anyone interested in mountaineering will, in my opinion, love this book. I would suggest there would be some of us who would be just as well off by not reading it. I would add that this book in no way altered my opinion of mountaineering.