Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival

Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival

by Joe Simpson


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Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival by Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, moments before he would have been pulled to his own death.

The next three days were an impossibly grueling ordeal for both men. Yates, certain that Simpson was dead, returned to base camp consumed with grief and guilt over abandoning him. Miraculously, Simpson had survived the fall, but crippled, starving, and severely frostbitten was trapped in a deep crevasse. Summoning vast reserves of physical and spiritual strength, Simpson crawled over the cliffs and canyons of the Andes, reaching base camp hours before Yates had planned to leave.

How both men overcame the torments of those harrowing days is an epic tale of fear, suffering, and survival, and a poignant testament to unshakable courage and friendship.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060730550
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/03/2004
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 93,623
Product dimensions: 7.94(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.54(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Joe Simpson is the author of several bestselling books, of which the first, Touching the Void, won both the NCR Award and the Boardman Tasker Award. His later books are This Game of Ghosts, Storms of Silence, Dark Shadows Falling, The Beckoning Silence and a novel, The Water People.

Read an Excerpt

Beneath the Mountain Lakes

I was lying in my sleeping bag, staring at the light filtering through the red and green fabric of the dome tent. Simon was snoring loudly, occasionally twitching in his dream world. We could have been anywhere. There is a peculiar anonymity about being in tents. Once the zip is closed and the outside world barred from sight, all sense of location disappears. Scotland, the French Alps, the Karakoram, it was always the same. The sounds of rustling, of fabric flapping in the wind, or of rainfall, the feel of hard lumps under the ground sheet, the smell of rancid socks and sweat - these are universals, as comforting as the warmth of the down sleeping bag.

Outside, in a lightening sky, the peaks would be catching the first of the morning sun, with perhaps even a condor cresting the thermals above the tent. That wasn't too fanciful either since I had seen one circling the camp the previous afternoon. We were in the middle of the Cordillera Huayhuash, in the Peruvian Andes, separated from the nearest village by twenty-eight miles of rough walking, and surrounded by the most spectacular ring of ice mountains I had ever seen, and the only indication of this from within our tent was the regular roaring of avalanches falling off Cerro Sarapo.

I felt a homely affection for the warm security of the tent, and reluctantly wormed out of my bag to face the prospect of lighting the stove. It had snowed a little during the night, and the grass crunched frostily under my feet as I padded over to the cooking rock. There was no sign of Richard stirring as I passed his tiny one-man tent, half collapsed and whitened with hoar frost.

Squatting under thelee of the huge overhanging boulder that had become our kitchen, I relished this moment when I could be entirely alone. I fiddled with the petrol stove which was mulishly objecting to both the temperature and the rusty petrol with which I had filled it. I resorted to brutal coercion when coaxing failed and sat it atop a propane gas stove going full blast. It burst into vigorous life, spluttering out two-foot-high flames in petulant revolt against the dirty petrol.

As the pan of water slowly heated, I looked around at the wide, dry and rock-strewn river bed, the erratic boulder under which I crouched marking the site at a distance in all but the very worst weather. A huge, almost vertical wall of ice and snow soared upwards to the summit of Cerro Sarapo directly in front of the camp, no more than a mile and a half away. Rising from the sea of moraine to my left, two spectacular and extravagant castles of sugar icing, Yerupaja and Rasac, dominated the camp site. The majestic 21,000-foot Siula Grande lay behind Sarapo and was not visible. It had been climbed for the first time in 1936 by two bold Germans via the North Ridge. There had been few ascents since then, and the true prize, the daunting 4,500-foot West Face had so far defeated all attempts.

I turned off the stove and gingerly slopped the water into three large mugs. The sun hadn't cleared the ridge of mountains opposite and it was still chilly in the shadows.

'There's a brew ready, if you're still alive in there,' I announced cheerfully.

I gave Richard's tent a good kicking to knock off the frost and he crawled out looking cramped and cold. Without a word he headed straight for the river bed, clutching a roll of toilet paper.

'Are you still bad?' I asked when he returned.

'Well, I'm not the full ticket but I reckon I'm over the worst. It was bloody freezing last night.'

I wondered if it was the altitude rather than the kidney-bean stew that was getting to him. Our tents were pitched at 15,000 feet, and he was no mountaineer.

Simon and I had found Richard resting in a sleazy hotel in Lima, halfway through his six-month exploration of South America. His wire-rimmed glasses, neat practical clothing and bird-like mannerisms hid a dry humour and a wild repertoire of beachcombing reminiscences. He had lived off grubs and berries with pygmies while dug-out canoeing through the rain forests of Zaire, and had watched a shoplifter being kicked to death in a Nairobi market. His travelling companion was shot dead by trigger-happy soldiers in Uganda for no more than a dubious exchange of cassette tapes.

He traveled the world between bouts of hard work to raise funds.Usually he journeyed alone to see where chance encounters in aliens countries would take him. There were distinct advantages, we thought, to having an entertaining watchman in camp to keep an eye on the gear while Simon and I were out climbing. It was probably a gross injustice to the poor hill farmers in this remote spot, but in the backstreets of Lima we had become suspicious of everyone. Anyway, we had invited Richard to come up and join us for a few days if he wanted to see the Andes at close quarters.

It had been two days' walk from where the bone-shaking bus deposited us after 80 heart-stopping miles up the mountain valleys. Forty-six people were crammed into a ramshackle vehicle designed to carry twenty-two, and we were not fortified by the sight of so many wayside shrines to dead bus drivers and their passengers. The engine was held together with nylon string and a flat tire was changed with a pick-axe.

By the end of the second day, Richard was feeling the effects of attitude. Dusk was gathering as we approached the head of the valley, and he urged Simon and me to go ahead with the donkeys and prepare camp before dark; he would take his time to follow. The way was straightforward now - he couldn't go wrong, he had said.

Slowly he staggered up the treacherous moraines to the lake where he thought we were camped and then remembered a second lake on the map. It had begun to rain and grew increasingly cold. A thin shirt and light cotton trousers were poor protection from…

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Touching the Void 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Joel-A More than 1 year ago
The book Touching The Void tells an amazing true survival story of two friends climbing the Siula Grande Mountain in Peru. Joe Simpson and Simon Yates take a treacherous journey climbing the west face of Siula Grande. They face many obstacles together to reach the summit, but they soon realize going back down is more difficult. Tragedy strikes and Simon has to make a decision that could be fatal for his friend Joe. Everyone should read this book because it tells how someone can overcome their obstacles no matter what they are dealt. Also, the major themes are to not give up and always follow your dreams. The author uses a first person writing style that switches back and forth between the two characters, to show different perspectives of the journey. In my opinion this is a very well written piece of writing that will keep your interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Touching the Void was a book full of suppense. The story gave a great look at truly how dangerous and mind-boggling ice climbing can be. It was full of descriptive words, that at somepoints made it hard to understand, but there was a glossary in the back to help with the climbing phrases and mountain areas. The book starts with Joe Simpson and 2 of his friends at base camp. He tells a story of a previous attempt to summit. During this attempt they end up being rescued after one of their snow cave collapses and all of their gear is lost down the mountain. Now during the current story Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are attempting the same summit. They reach the top but on the way down disaster strikes. Joe falls off an edge and ends up breaking multiple spots in his leg. Joe and Simon are able to come up with a way to get both of them down when Joe falls off the edge sliding down. He ends up falling, while Simon is still at the top. Simon not knowing if Joe was alive had to cut the rope. Joe wakes up at the bottom and has to find his way back to base camp on his own. There are a few parts in the book told from Simons point of view but it is mainly from Joe's point of view. To me the book was mainly about his fall but that was not the only part that made the book great. The fact that Joe Simpson's friend Simon Yates were so close and even with Joe's first injury they never left eachother. After Joe's fall he was still concerned about the life of his friend and whether or not he was ok. This book showed the courage of Joe Simpson through his whole journey and how even when something has gone wrong in the past he still goes on with the adventure. This book was very suspenseful and very hard to put down. I would definitly recomend this book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿There was 100 feet of air between me and the dark outline of the crevasse¿. You¿re probably wondering how in the world did Joe Simpson the, author of this memoir Touching The Void, get into this life threatening position? Joe and his climbing partner Simon Yates set off on this blistering cold adventure. They reached the 21,000-foot summit of Siula Grande, located in Peru. Disaster strikes, and Joe plunges off a vertical ice ledge and ends up breaking his right leg, rupturing his right knee, and shattering his right heel. When it seemed as if they were out of hope, they come up with a daring plan that almost worked until Joe ends up dangling an estimate15 feet below a sheet of ice that is protruding 6 feet from the ice cliff, 100 feet above the ground. They where stuck Simon couldn¿t go down because he was holding onto Joe and at the same time Simon was in the process was being dragged off the mountain, to make matters worse for the pair Joe couldn¿t climb up. Joe Simpson is a powerful writer who makes you feel like your there with him, even though it takes place on a mountain. He not the kind of guy who talks about the tools and equipment all the time, so it¿s not a super technical book anyone can read and relish it. His style is more laid back, but lets you peek inside to who he truly is and talks about his emotions. I liked this book because it sucked me right into it and kept me turning the pages. I would definitely give this book 5 stars, and I would absolutely recommend this book to any mountaineer or anyone who enjoys a good book about survival, adventure, companionship, and the desire to live.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book Touching the Void was an interesting novel. It was very suspenseful and had some interesting pictures. The author went into a lot of detail sometimes too much detail. I liked how he let both of the men be narrators. But sometimes with the narrators swapping it could get confusing. When he got his leg broken the book slowed down a lot. It got just to be too slow. The author was on the same subject way too long. The rest of the book after him breaking his leg was too slow. The last half of the book was bad.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most amazing mountaineering survival stories I've read, and the movie is well worth the buy as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was going through a difficult time in my life and hearing Joe Simpson's story gave me the courage to face life head-on. If a human is capable of surviving an accident of this magnitude, I truly believe that life's smaller problems and inconveniences can easily be overcome. A truly inspirational story. I had to go out and rent the documentary which I believe is even better than the book. I was on the edge of my seat the ENTIRE time!!!!! I completely reccomend this book and movie to anyone who needs a little bit of inspiration in their lives!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent Inspiration The awesomely true adventure story Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson, is the account of two men¿s epic battle against time, nature, and ultimately themselves. Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are experienced mountain climbers and good friends. For their next task they attempt to tackle the very dangerous West face of a mountain in the South American Andes. No one has made it down alive from this route, but Joe and Simon will be the first. Or will they? Be prepared to never put this book down. From beginning to end readers will be at the edge of their seats anticipating what is in store on the next page. Not only is this book amazing in the sense that it is a true story, but it is tremendously inspiring. Many people would simply quit, give up, if they were put in the same situation of the lead character (being trapped on a mountain alone with a broken leg). But the way Simpson looks fear in the eye and says ¿I¿m not scared¿ is sure to be an excellent inspiration the un-inspirable. After reading this book one will never look at adversity in the same way again. ---J. Peña
lunamonty on LibraryThing 5 days ago
A riveting and nearly unbelievable true story of endurance. Two British mountain climbers struggle to descend a Peruvian peak in the face of ever-worsening catastrophe. This book was the basis for a recent documentary by the same title.
petulant_seraph on LibraryThing 5 days ago
A truly wonderful read. It¿s one of those books that you try to force on your friends, hence several copies have entered and left my shelves over the years.Joe Simpson tells of the harrowing events experienced by himself and climbing companion Simon Yates in the Peruvian Andes. It¿s a tale of survival and the strength of the human spirit. He shares his story with wit and honesty resulting in a book that appeals to a wide variety of readers.I took from this book the knowledge that accidents do happen, people have to make impossible decisions and to be cautious about judgements reached from the comfort of my armchair.
astrofiammante on LibraryThing 5 days ago
One of the most touching, apparently truthful and immediate books I have read for a long time, one that left me torn between alarm at the young Simpson's foolishness and respect for his tenacity. A great insight into that mysterious force that drives mountaineers back to the mountain again and again to face physical danger and misery beyond imagination. An excellent addition to a favourite genre of mine.
booknivorous on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Considering that most of the book is told from the perspective of one man¿s thoughts as he¿s stuck alone in a seriously bad predicament, it¿s surprising how exhausted I was after finishing the book. If you enjoy stories of personal willpower, endurance, or being stuck in the wilderness, you¿ll enjoy this book.
captgeoff on LibraryThing 5 days ago
A gripping story of one mans fight for survival in the mountains.
ursula on LibraryThing 11 days ago
Inspiring without being sentimental. Besides telling the story of Joe Simpson's survival, this edition has the added perspective of Yates, who had to make the decision to cut the rope attached to Simpson and move on.
DarkRavenDH More than 1 year ago
One man’s journey back from the edge of death… In 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates made an assault on the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande, in Peru. Reaching the summit was a proud moment. Now, it was time to climb down. And that’s when disaster struck… There were no fixed ropes, but Simpson and Yates were connected by 150 feet of line. When Simpson fell suddenly he shattered his right leg at the knee. In excruciating pain, Simpson was unable to do much climbing. Yates tied two ropes together, making 300 feet. He began to slowly lower Simpson bit by bit down the mountain. Unfortunately, Simpson again fell. Unable to pull him back up, Yates made the only decision he could. Badly worn out himself, he had to ensure that he could climb down to base camp. He cut the rope, sending Simpson into a crevasse. Very certain that Simpson was now dead, Yates carefully made his way into camp. This is the story of a miracle. By any odds, Simpson should have died. Unable to use his right leg, Simpson made a perilous journey back to camp, dragging himself inch by inch. The power of the human spirit is often amazing. In his own words, Simpson tells the story of his ordeal. His story is inter spliced with Yates thoughts, the loss of his friend and the guilty thoughts of his decision to cut the rope in spite of the fact that he knew he could have done nothing else. Bravery and adventure in the world of mountain climbing! I give the book five stars! Quoth the Raven…
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson was an excellent book about a tremendous story of survival in the Peruvian Andes. This book tells the story of how Joe manages to survive after breaking his leg high up on Siula Grande and falling into a crevasse. His climbing partner thinks he is dead so Joe is forced to crawl his way out of the crevasse and all the way back down to camp all by himself with a broken leg. Overall, this book was written phenomenally, it explained every detail thoroughly while keeping my interest all throughout the book. However, there were times when it got a bit confusing due to the technical climbing terminology, but it was easy to follow after a simple google search. Touching the Void also had a great overall message of perseverance, showing that no matter how bad a situation gets, it can always be overcome if you never lose faith. This book is a great read for anyone who loves adventure and is passionate about the outdoors, and if you are a climber yourself, you will absolutely love this book. Overall I would rate this book five stars because of how incredible the story was and how well it was written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is incredibly well told. It's not only fascinating because of the extreme and unusual circumstances, his portrayal of his perseverance and will to survive is inspiring and infectious. Whether or not you're a mountaineer, you must read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Touching the Void is suspenseful nonfiction story about one of author Joe Simpson’s mountain climbing experiences. Joe and his friend/climbing partner Simon are climbing in the Peruvian Andes when things go south. Simon has to cut his partner loose and they both are trying to get back to safety. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read adventure or survival stories. I would also recommend this book for other climbers because there is a lot of vocab that is better understood for people who had experience with those things and it makes it difficult for people who don’t know much about mountain climbing to understand. Some major themes are never give up, trust, and friendship. Everyone should read this book because the survival element alone is intriguing to read about but there are other things like the strong bond of friendship that makes this book even more fun to read. Even though this book is about climbing it relates to everyone because everyone has something in their life that they enjoy and have to take risks even though they know there are chances of bad outcomes. Also, it gives a new perspective on adversity and what people are capable of doing if they if there is no other way out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to put book down. Incredible story of survival. One of the best survival stories I have read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
During the descent of the perilous Peruvian Andes, the author, Simpson, and his climbing partner, Yates, are roped together when tragedy strikes and Simpson drops off an edge, suddenly finding himself hanging in the void of a crevasse. Unable to hold both his own weight and his climbing partner’s weight from falling, Yates is forced to make the awful decision to cut the rope to save himself. Amazingly, Simpson survives the fall, but now has to climb down the mountain on his own, with no food, no water, and a broken leg. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The story was gripping and I always found myself on the edge of my seat; if someone is searching for an adventurous and exciting book to read, I recommend this one! Simpson didn’t just tell the story, he provided the audience with an insight of his thoughts, hallucinations, and agony. He did not glorify the story and never tried to make himself sound heroic. I like that the book flip flopped between Simpson’s perspective and Yates’s perspective because the reader  was able to gain a better sense of the pain, guilt, fear, and panic both men endured throughout their journey. I think this would be an interesting book to include in a high school curriculum because it includes major themes like courage, survival, and determination, all of which are not often explored in other novels read in high school. I do not think this book is appropriate for kids who are not yet in high school because there is some profanity and the story can sometimes be quite graphic, something that could be disturbing to younger ages. Although I give this book a high rating, I will say that I disliked the extensive climbing terms the author used throughout the book. As someone who is not familiar with the sport of climbing, it was at times difficult to follow along and understand the situations the author was describing and I can imagine that this would also be difficult for other non-climbers reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book, loved the movie.  What a story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Over the past few weeks I have been reading the book Touching the Void. It is an autobiography written by Joe Simpson. The two main characters are the author Joe Simpson and his partner Simon Yates. The two of them talk about their adventures mountain climbing. This book takes place in the mid 80's on the mountain of the Siula Grande in Peru. This mountain range is located in the Waywash mountain range in the Peruvian Andes in South America. The furthest peak reaches 20,814 feet above sea level, well about the heavens. This beautiful movie was made famous by this book, where Joe and Simon talk about their ascent and subsequent descent on the mountain. They ascended the West face witch is very remote and treacherous part of the mountain. They became the first to reach the summit by that route, nobody has ever climbed that face of the mountain before. They also chose the North Ridge for their descent, which was made almost impossible by winter storms. Joe and Simon made the ascent with no problems, it was challenging but they over came those problems and kept climbing. It was the descent of the trip what made this story life changing. After a couple days into their descent down disaster struck. Simon feel a short distance and ended up breaking a couple bones in his leg. They had no hope of being saved and Joe didn't want to leave Simon up on the mountain alone to die. So they decided to try an attempt at getting both of them down safely. Using a rope 300 feet long then began the slow process of lowering down Simon bit by bit. This was working for quit some time now tell they ran into even more trouble. Joe feel over a cliff on the edge of the mountain and had no way of climbing back up, so Simon makes the decision to cut the rope, in attempt that at least one of them will survive. Joe falls into a crevasses, Simon doesn't really know what to do. So assuming that Joe is dead Simon starts to keep heading down the mountain very slowly. The book is about the story of how they did this. I thought this was a really good book and I would reconmend it too anyone who is interested in the outdoors, mountain climbing, or adventures stories. Anyone who is interested on reading about the miraculous story on the survival of these two men should pick up a copy of this book at once. The story behind this is truly amazing. These men both should have died 19,000 feet in the air, once Simon broke his leg neather of them should have made it down. Under the circumstances Joe should have just left Simon to die and get himself off the mountain while he had a chance. But Joe wasn't about to leave his partner behind, and that is truly heroic and makes the book so much better in my opinion. In a normal situation like this the injured person would be left behind, because there really ins't a lot to do in this situation. I also liked how this book was written by the guy who survived this. The book being an autobiography makes it a lot more interesting and makes it more enjoyable to follow. I think this story is a lot better when it is told by the person who was actually there and not somebody who was just writing about the experience. You can tell their is a lot more detail and emotion that goes into the story, which i believe makes it a lot better story. I also enjoy that the author shares what was going through his mind during the story and you know exactly how he feels. You can tell that this story isn't just made up and fake. It keeps you on the edge of your seat wanting to keep reading to find out what happens next. The story beyond this is very interesting and to listen to their day to day activities is truly astonishingon how they survived in such harsh environments with not to many resources. One of the things I found the most interesting would be when they dug caves in the snow to use as shelter. I think that would be crazy how they just spent the night under the snow, 20,000 feet in the air. I don't think I could do it, I would always have this feeling like I am going to fall or something bad is going to happen. I don't think I could even do the climbing they were doing because they could fall at any time and bring both of them down to their deaths. At some points throughout the story they where climbing vertical ice walls with nothing more then some ropes, ice screw, crampons, and ice pikes. What they acompished is truly amazing in my eyes, and the fact that they reached the sumit without no problems is awesome. The hardest part for the author I would beilve is the part where he broke his leg while still up on the mountain. I wouldn't know what to do and I would probably just panic and freak out. Expecialy if I was all alone, trying to descend this mountain safely. To be honest I would probably give up and just wait to die. It's jaw dropping how the Simon kicks away the pain and using only one leg somehow manages to get down the mountain and into safety. It's a really good story and I reconmend anyone to read this book and listen to the story of Joe and S
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down. I was up until the wee hours for many nights because I just couldn't put down this book. I'd go into work tired and with blood shot eyes promising to get a good night's sleep. But then I'd open up the book again and be up all night reading it. As a weekend peak bagger myself, I just found the story amazing, riveting, gripping, and one of the most suspensful that I have ever read. You will not regret reading this book.
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
As a frequent reader of adventure related books, I found this tome to land in my top 10%. The pacing and intimacy of the writing kept me enthralled as I read into the night. Based on the true story of two young men enduring a crisis high on an icy mountain, it certainly made me appreciate my mundane life on terra firma. Not only is this a book of roller coaster highs and lows but gives wonderful insight into the survival instinct of man. While I would like to think I could possibly endure this harrowing experience, the truth is that I would probably succumb to the elements. Anyway, it was fun to place myself in that situation if only in my mind. As a bonus, the book can be viewed as a leadership guide. Keeping cool under pressure, maintaining a clear mission and making tough, sound decisions in a timely manner. All critical to great leadership. I highly recommend this book and hope you find this review helpful. Michael L. Gooch, Author of Wingtips with Spurs
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