Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

I don't like mountaineering books as a rule, but this autobiographical book is exceptional. It's a book about survival and you don't need to be interested in climbing to enjoy it. We know the outcome from the start, but you will still be on the edge of your seat as each new crisis occurs. The writing is spare and honest and conveys each participant's emotions. There's a documentary film too, which is unusual in that it follows the source book very closely and so is just as good as the book, and is possibly even more nerve-wracking. The only difference I would say is that the book is very clear on Joe Simpson's attitude to his climbing partner Simon Yates.

Joe's survival is amazing and can be attributed in part to his competitive nature as a climber and athlete. To crawl for miles with a horrendously-broken leg could surely only be achieved by someone with great mental abilities. He sets himself tasks, and breaks them down into patterns and gives himself time limits to achieve them. (Some of his worst moments come when he gives up on this strict control of his mind). It is a great illustration of how great challenges are achieved through mental as much as physical effort. I think it is probably much harder to train yourself mentally though.

There is a link to a description of the book here, and this is a link to Joe Simpson's website, "No Ordinary Joe".

Day 104; Book 103