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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading as well as watching
A few weeks back, in search of something good to watch at the video store, I picked up Kevin Macdonald's Touching the Void documentary from the shelf. As I was skeptically reading the back of the DVD case, the fellow standing next to me said that it was a "really good movie." I took him on his word and later disovered a movie that I have since been raving about...
Published on Dec 21 2004 by Elizabeth

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3.0 out of 5 stars I Don't Get It...Tempting Fate???
Given the plethora of reviews of this slender tale that gush with praise, my thoughts about this story are clearly contrarian. Actually, no amount of praise would be enough to describe Joe Simpson's courage, determination and strength in surviving seemingly insurmountable odds, while suffering tormenting pain, after plunging from a vertical face of a 21,000 foot peak in...
Published on Sept. 4 2001 by bcj222


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading as well as watching, Dec 21 2004
By 
Elizabeth (Calgary, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
A few weeks back, in search of something good to watch at the video store, I picked up Kevin Macdonald's Touching the Void documentary from the shelf. As I was skeptically reading the back of the DVD case, the fellow standing next to me said that it was a "really good movie." I took him on his word and later disovered a movie that I have since been raving about to all who will listen. It is a riveting story in which an injured climber is left for dead on a Peruvian mountain and manages to crawl his way off. It sounds like fiction, but, as is often the case, this true story is incredible beyond what a writer could believable construct. So, when I found out that Joe Simpson (the climber left on the mountain) had written a book, Touching the Void about his harrowing adventure, I knew I needed to read it.
The movie and the DVD extras take the viewer on an emotional path where one at first dislikes the arrongant and impetuous Simpson, while his climbing pal Simon Yates seems more sympathetic. However, as the movie continues and especially if you watch the Return to Siula Grande DVD extra, it becomes hard not to empathize with Simpson's reaction to returning to the place where he had faced so much trauma and to, in contrast, find Yates cold and unfeeling, as if the experience they shared so many years before no longer affected him personally. The end of the movie leaves one with the impression that Simpson, although understanding at what Yates did, does not really like Yates and does certainly not consider him a friend.
The book, written several years earlier, certainly leaves a more positive impression of Yates. While Simpson admits to having written the book in part to clear Yates's name in the climbing communitry, his storytelling takes the reader beyond a defense of Yates's actions. In fact, Simpson's description of Yates's attempt to lower the injured Simpson down the mountain portrays an act that is nothing short of heroic. It is clear that his cutting the rope was a last, desperate resort to end a situation in which there was no way out.
While the book and the movie both tell very closely the same story, reading the book and seeing the movie is neither a redundant experience nor an exercise in detecting differences in the two plots. In fact, the one enriches the story in the other. The maps and the first-person telling in the book complement the documentary-style script and the sweeping vistas caught on film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EXTREME ADVENTURE IN THE PERUVIAN ANDES..., June 8 2002
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Touching The Void (Paperback)
This book recounts an amazing tale of courage, fortitude, and the will to live, despite dire circumstances. The author, Joe Simpson, and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, attempted to ascend a perilous section of the Peruvian Andes. Near the summit, tragedy struck when Joe, up over 19,000 feet, fell and hit a slope at the base of a cliff, breaking his right leg, rupturing his right knee, and shattering his right heel. Beneath him was a seemingly endless fall to the bottom.
When Simon reached him, they both knew that the chances for getting Joe off the mountain were virtually non-existent. Yet, they fashioned a daring plan to to do just that. For the next few hours, they worked in tandem through a snow storm, and managed a risky, yet effective way of trying to lower Joe down the mountain.
About three thousand feet down, Joe, who was still roped to Simon, dropped off an edge and found himself now free hanging in space six feet away from an ice wall, unable to reach it with his axe. The edge was over hung about fifteen feet above him. The dark outline of a crevasse lay about a hundred feet directly below him.
Joe could not get up, and Simon could not get down. In fact, Joe's weight began to pull Simon off the mountain. So, Simon was finally forced to do the only thing he could do under the circumstances. He cut the rope, believing that he was consigning his friend to certain death. Therein lies the tale.
What happens next is sure to make one believe in miracles. This is an absorbing read and one of the great stories in mountaineering literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping; couldn't put it down, April 8 2005
This review is from: Touching The Void (Paperback)
This was one novel that I could not put down. In a nut shell, this true life story is about Joe Simpson and the troubles he endured while mountaineering in Peruvian Andes. What makes the story so gripping is that this was no up the mountain; down the mountain story. Instead Joe takes us on a wild ride into his psyche as he encounters a few problems along the way, and how he manages to deal with them in a calm, cool, collected manner.
Even though this book has been making the rounds in the rock climbing/mountaineering scene for years now, everyone, regardless of their backgrounds should give this book a read. It is a testament to the human spirit, as well as a never give up attitude. At the end of the book, all you'll be able to say is 'wow'.
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4.0 out of 5 stars the diction brings the Peruvian Andes to you, Oct. 29 2001
By 
chad crabtree (Durango, Colorado USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Touching the Void (Paperback)
"Touching the Void" is a non-fiction suspense account by Joe Simpson. It all begins when Joe and his best friend, Simon, decide they want to climb the unforgiving Siula Grande mountain in the Peruvian Andes. To get warmed up, they do a smaller climb that takes them two days and two nights. After carefully watching the weather patterns, they choose a departure date. The first two days of the journey are beautiful sunny days without despair. As the third day rolls around and they push for the summit, they come upon bad weather. Maybe this proves to be a bad omen. The two climbers successfully reach the summit, but on the way down run into a terrible blizzard. As the two men slowly wander off course, Joe takes a horrifying fall and badly injures his knee. The incredible part of the story is how they overcome the physical challenge and keep on descending. When Joe and Simon believe they have almost made it to the valley floor, everything goes wrong. Joe is left for dead as Simon has to make an unforgettable decision. Fortunately, Joe has an unusually strong will to live. Never giving up and staying calm and in control will always prevail; in "Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson, Joe survives a horrendous fall and hangs on until the bitter end.
Joe Simpson wrote this book to share with all readers his true account of a terrifying adventure and a miraculous ending. The strongest device used to bring the Peruvian Andes right to the living room of the reader is the diction. Simpson's word choice is what makes the book worth while reading. "As the hammer came out there was a sharp cracking sound and my right hand, gripping the axe, pulled down. The sudden jerk turned me outwards and instantly I was falling . . . the rushing speed of it confused me. . . then the pain flooded down my thigh- a fierce burning fire coming down the inside of my thigh, seeming to ball in my groin, building and building until I cried out at it, and my breathing came in ragged gasps. My leg! Oh Jesus. My leg! (P. 71-72)." These lines stand out because it brings the adventure right to the living room. This incredible sensation is all due to the excellent choice of diction. Simpson also added excerpts from Simon's journal to add another perspective here and there. "Touching the Void" reaches the necessary literary level simply because of Simpson's word choice.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I Don't Get It...Tempting Fate???, Sept. 4 2001
By 
"bcj222" (Newport Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Touching the Void (Paperback)
Given the plethora of reviews of this slender tale that gush with praise, my thoughts about this story are clearly contrarian. Actually, no amount of praise would be enough to describe Joe Simpson's courage, determination and strength in surviving seemingly insurmountable odds, while suffering tormenting pain, after plunging from a vertical face of a 21,000 foot peak in the Andes. However, my appreciation for this tale was marred by nagging questions about how Simpson ended up in his nasty predicament in the first place. Given the objective technical risks of the chosen route, wouldn't it have been wise to have a third member on the rope team? With several near misses along the chosen summit and descent routes before the "final" disaster, would "tempting fate" (one of the chapters in the book) be a better name for the book? Was achieving a first ascent more important than making a successful descent? The tale infers Simpson's partner was unsettled about leaving base camp, so why didn't he try harder to confirm his assumption that Simpson had died before making a decision to leave the area? I would be first in line to hear Simpson teach a lesson on courage, but I would think twice before taking a lesson on mountaineering from these guys. Moreover, the substance of this tale seems better suited to a short story or magazine article than a book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Odyssey of Joe Simpson, June 30 2001
By 
sweetmolly (RICHMOND, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Touching the Void (Paperback)
This is not primarily an adventure story about climbing. It is an account of one man, not just facing the abyss but being in the abyss and having his very being stripped to a raw struggle, not to survive but to want to survive.
Simpson and a climbing partner in an excess of youthful bravado planned a new route up a monster Andean peak in Peru. The area was remote and civilization was somewhere else. After an arduous ascent, Simpson fell and broke his leg while descending. The reader gradually realizes what a chilling horror has befallen the pair. They have no possibility of rescue; the mountain was almost unclimbable for two superb athletes with two good legs. How can they possibly get down when one of them is unable to walk?
Partner, Simon Yates, ropes Simpson to himself and tries to guide Simpson down who is forced to crawl, slide, and inch himself forward. Then Simpson goes over the edge of a cornice and is dangling with only the rope holding him over the void. Yates heroically digs in, but gradually he himself is being inexorably drawn to the chasm. He finally, with shuddering reluctance, cuts the rope, and Simpson falls many feet into a crevasse.
The rest of the book is Simpson's six-day excruciating journey down the mountain: his thoughts, hallucinations and agony. Simpson is a powerful writer without a trace of self-pity. He doesn't try to impress us with his stoicism - far from it, at times he is almost mad with fright. There is nothing lurid here; the book is exhausting, but thought provoking. You won't forget it easily, and you cannot help but wonder what it is like beyond the edge and into the maelstrom.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Touching the Void, June 6 2001
By 
This review is from: Touching the Void (Paperback)
This is the kind of book you find yourself thinking about long after the final page. I picked it while vacationing at the foot of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. Having just visited the town cemetary there, I was sobered by the many graves of those that had died on that mountain. I wanted a glimpse of what goes on in the minds of climbers and why they do what they do. In Touching the Void, the author gave me glimpse into this world by articulately explaining his feelings during the planning, ascent and descent. For a nonclimber, the technical climbing descriptions can be hard at first but I think ultimately added to the story. It gives you a feel for the constant life and death decisions these men are making. However, the most compelling thing about this book, and what keeps you turning the pages long into the night,is the moral and human delimmas the climbers face when everything starts to go wrong. This book will incite much reflection and leave no doubt in your mind that the will to live is nearly indomitable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars EXTREME ADVENTURE IN THE PERUVIAN ANDES, July 30 2000
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Touching the Void (Paperback)
An amazing tale of courage, fortitude, and a desire to live, despite dire circumstances. The author, Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, ascend a perilous section of the Peruvian Andes. Near the summit, tragedy strikes when Joe, up over 19,000 feet, falls and hits a slope at the base of a cliff, breaking his right leg, rupturing his right knee, and shattering his right heel. Beneath him is a seemingly endless fall to the bottom. Simon reaches him but knows that the chances for Joe to get off the mountain are virtually non-existent. Yet, they fashion a daring plan to to do just that.
For the next few hours, through a snow storm, they work in tandem, and manage a risky, yet effective way of trying to lower Joe down the mountain. About three thousand feet down, Joe who is still roped to Simon, drops off an edge, and finds himself now free hanging in space six feet away from an ice wall, unable to reach it with his axe. The edge is over hung about fifteen feet above him. The dark outline of a crevasse lies about a hundred feet directly below him.
Joe couln't get up, and Simon couldn't get down. In fact, Joe's weight began to pull Simon off the mountain. So, Simon was finally forced to do the only thing he could do under the circumstances. He cut the rope, believing that he was consigning his friend to certain death. Therein lies the tale.
What happens next is sure to make one believe in miracles.
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5.0 out of 5 stars not for the faint of heart, March 11 2000
By 
mike h. (Washington DC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Touching the Void (Paperback)
I can sum up Joe Simpson's book Touching the Void in one word: inspiring. This thrilling and harrowing tale of two friends ascending a Peruvian 21,000 foot peak is inspirational to man's tough will to live, and the never ending struggle to survive. As the two climbers face almost sure death, they realize that a minute mistake by either one, and they both could be dead within hours. The two climbers are very similar. Joe Simpson, the author, narrator, and main character is a climber without writing background. However, he does have courage, a cool nonchalant attitude, and he is a man who has dignity. Simon Yeats, his partner, has a strong conscience, bravery, he never panics, and he accepts reality even if it is unfavorable. Together, the two make a great team. The style in which this piece is written is one of great description. The use of vivid adjectives gives the reader an image with DVD lucidity of the ongoing story. The reader feels as if he/she is right in there inside Joe's head, thinking what he thinks, feeling what he feels. If you read the book, you take every step with the two up the mountain and down again. Yet Joe is not the narrator all the way through. After the two climbers are separated on the descent, the story jumps back and forth from Joe's point of view, to Simon's thoughts and his point of view. This allows the reader to juxtapose the two perspectives. This book is great for the mountaineer, and even for those couch potatoes that just need to get a little inspired to start their own adventures. If you like the works of Jon Krakauer, the author of the chilling tale Into Thin Air, a story of the ill-fated 1996 Everest attempts, you will thoroughly enjoy this tale of survival. On the "F" scale -- F1: frighteningly bad, F2 fairly bad, F3 fun read, F4 fine piece of work, F5 fantastic book - I would give this book an F 4.5. It is an inspiring story that gives you a sense of adventure.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This is a griping story of survival and human endurance., May 16 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Touching the Void (Paperback)
How far can the human body be pushed before total collapse? What can the mind endure before succumbing to what seems like inevitable termination? Joe Simpson's tale of survival after what should have been a fatal mountaineering event begins to explore the limits of human capability. Readers in our book group felt the prose was not first rate but written well enough that few wanted to put the book down. This book is good enough to become canon in mountaineering literature. For those with no mountaineering experience, some of the climbing aspects and descriptions may be difficult to envision. Nonetheless it is an amazing story. Our group read this in conjunction with Caroline Alexander's book "The Endurance", another incredible story of survival against unbelievable odds. While Simpson's ordeal occurs over the span of a few days, the story of Shakleton's group living on the ice for nearly two years explores the other spectrum of what it takes to survive - the two stories seem to compliment each other in the scope of human endurance.
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Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival
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