The book recounts the nightmare that Joe Simpson and Simon Yates experienced when they climbed the not-yet-conquered West Face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes.
After reaching the summit on the 3rd day, Joe breaks his leg on a nasty fall as they start their descent down the mountain. For all sakes and purposes, a broken leg at 6,000 meters is a death sentence. In a forced fit of compassion, his climbing partner Simon decides to lower Joe down the vertical face of the mountain. During the vertical descent, due to extenuating circumstances (to put it lightly) Simon is forced to cut the rope holding Joe, letting him drop more than 100 feet into a white cloud of mist and snow. Somehow, Joe survives the fall and begins a three day crawl to the base camp, miles away.
Amazingly, both men survive and the book recounts the details from both Joe's and Simon's perspectives to yield a swirl of emotions, friendship, betrayal, physical endurance and inner strength that goes beyond comprehension.
The book was written with more technical jargon about mountain climbing than I expected, but the author provides a glossary at the back of the book that was helpful. For the most part, though, the technicalities of what a "belay" or a "fluting" is doesn't matter and the book still reads well. The author writes candidly and with stark honesty about his emotions citing child-like symptoms of panic several times through-out the excursion. I suppose if I were dangling by a rope in the midst of a white-out with no idea 'how far I might fall through the clouds (the void) below,' I believe that I, too, would be bawling like a child.
While it may sound as if I just spoiled the book by giving away the plot in my synopsis......I haven't. I knew the outcome of the book from the beginning and I was still enthralled and on the edge of my seat throughout. Surprisingly, the book's strength isn't the plot, rather its the experience that the reader shares when each of the climbers are...