November 25, 2005

Touching the Void

Touching the Void was on again last night – the story for those who don't know is pretty incredible. Joe Simpson and Simon Yates were involved in a serious accident climbing down from the 21,000ft Siula Grande when Joe fell and smashed his leg to pieces.

The story of how Simon tried to lower Joe down the side of the mountain and eventually cutting the rope, dropping Joe into a crevasse is pretty remarkable in itself. The fact that Joe was able to escape the crevasse and then crawl for 4 days back to the camp, exhausted, delerious and dragging his smashed leg behind him is truely amazing.

I went to see Joe talk about the experience at a lecture in Worcester a few years ago. Hearing it from the man directly is incredibly powerful, especially when talking about the night spent alone in the crevasse. As he says –

"You don't die of a broken leg"

One of those stories that really asks questions about what we are capable of and the limits of human endurance and sheer bloody mindedness.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. kartasik

    Great story created by two Brit climbing tramps, no doubt after a 10 foot fall from a boulder broke the knee of one of them, and after many rounds of Peruvian beer (which they admit to) sealed the deal. Somehow many folks around the world actually by the silly story that a man fell 300 freefall feet after his rope was cut to hit packed snow and ice covering a Bergschrund crevasse. He would be traveling at around 110 to 120 mph. This snow bridge might have slowed him down to 40 mph and then he states that he fell another 150 feet (the height of a 15 story building) to slam into an ice ledge. He tries to deflect the obvious cartoon effect of him surviving with no new serious injuries (remember he cracked his knee he said on a SHORTER fall earlier that day) by stating that the sides of the crevasse were 'sloped a little'. Of course this 150 foot long steep slide made of ice would not have slowed him down much if at all and any rough spots that could have slowed him down would certainly have caused injury! At the bottom he would have slammed into the ledge and actually BOUNCED. I know of a guy who jumped from a 100 foot high building in my home town who bounced 8 feet into the air on impact.

    Then this story goes on with a series of incredible events, such as a mysterious ice floor below him that just happened to be as deep as he had rope for. Of course no reason is given why such a floor, that was not the real bottom of the crevasse, should even be there. Then he magically finds a way outby this lower floor. Then we are to believe that he makes his way with a very serious loss of blood (internal leg bleeding) and injury for days over a vast ice field and boulder field.

    The man who saved him admits on CD to having wanted to become famous before this story took place and both men made money and a living off the story – which no doubt funded the so-called victim with more money in which to get into drunken fights at pubs and bars (which he admits to on the CD I saw).

    If you fall for this cartoon tale – you are either a city slicker who never fell while climbing (which I have) or a simple fool. 300 feet + 150 = 450 feet, nearly half the height of the former World Trade Towers.

    22 Jan 2006, 06:02

  2. eeep – bit harsh perhaps.

    I have seen JS speak about the experience and have to say I found it rather compelling. Now, I don't pretend to know anything much about climbing, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    I don't think he ever claimed to fall 300 feet free fall – I always thought he said he slid down the side of the mountain.

    Regardless, you may know more than me, but I like the tale, whether true or not. I don't have much faith in the veracity of Arthurian legend, but I still find it gripping. To be honest if it never happened I would be just as impressed in the story and the telling.

    23 Jan 2006, 09:19

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