Wednesday, 14 July 2010

High stakes!

I read this riveting book when it first came out, so I was a little worried that some of the magic would have worn off in the following 20-odd years.

Back then I was living in North Wales, working and climbing in Snowdonia. I remember how the book was begged, borrowed and stolen by everyone in the climbing community and how the main issues were discussed long into the night.

So to the present and the climbing terminology didn't seem to dissuade the members of the book group. In fact the feeling was that the climbing was almost secondary to Simpson's epic struggle to get off the mountain.

There was a long discussion centered around the defining incident: would you cut the rope on your climbing partner as Simon Yates did? The feeling being a definite 'In the same situation...yes. He had tried to get Simpson down from the summit, knowing all the time that it was going to be a long shot'.

The author's description of his crawl back to base camp after the rope cutting incident and his escape from the crevasse is truly remarkable for an autobiography. June said it has the feel of a piece fiction where you don't know the outcome... you can't believe he is going to survive the ordeal. Could he surmount everything the mountain had thrown at him only to miss safety and reunion by minutes?

The group chewed over the nature of adventure, the need to find challenges and how people often invite danger by stacking the odds against themselves. Janet mentioned Simpson's own story of his horrifying bivouac in the Alps as a case in point. The group felt 'Touching The Void' had been a good 'Boys Own' choice for the group.