If you were to sit and watch an adaptation of Touching the Void on some random basic cable channel during the summer on a hot Thursday evening, you would write it off as a nonsensical and unbelievable work of fiction. You would swear that this story was only green-lit because the network president owed his nephew Chad a “favor” after getting caught snorting donkey dust at Chad’s film school frat party.
The WTF’s per chapter (WTF’s/C) were off the chart. As far as adventure books go this one is strangely unique in that you already know how it ends, and still feel a sense hope and fear along the way.
The book centers around Joe Simpson and his climbing partner Simon Yates descending a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes Mountains when Simpson fell from the face of the mountain breaking his leg. Despite the broken leg, Yates tried to lower his partner to safety before he was forced to cut the rope leaving his partner to perish. Only Joe Simpson didn’t perish, somehow he survived the descent from a mountain in freezing cold weather with no food or water. He also had to escape a crevasse with minimal tools, and make his way over a glacier and boulder field with no real sense of direction all on one leg. Oh, and he had to make it back to base camp before his climbing partner left for good.
Simpson’s account of the events had my stomach in knots from beginning to end. There is no way to capture this adventure as a book aesthetic, and I am embarrassed by the attempt. But, I set out to give this idea a try every month of the year, I’m 5-books in and have no reason to quit now. So, despite my shortcomings, here is my book aesthetic for Joe Simpson’s insane adventure story Touching the Void.
If you are a fan of adventure stories, climbing stories, or stories of survival against great odds, then I would recommend this book for sure. If you’d like to know more about the story without reading the book, Simpson and Yates returned to the scene years later to help film a docudrama for IFC (Chad and his imaginary uncle had no part in the making of this film). The film is available on Youtube for free. Here is a link.
Coming up in June will be Steve Callahan’s Adrift: Seventy-Six days Lost at Sea. If you want to read along, here is a link to the book!