Touching the Void By Joe Simpson.

Review by Rutendo Makubika

We took the customary summit photos and ate some chocolate. I felt the usual anticlimax. What now? It was a vicious cycle. If you succeeded with one dream, you come back to square one and it’s not long before you’re conjuring up another, slightly harder, a bit more ambitious, a bit more dangerous. I didn’t like the thought of where it might be leading me. As if, in some strange way, the very nature of the game was controlling me, taking me towards a logical but frightening conclusion; it always unsettled me, this moment of reaching the summit, this sudden stillness and quiet after the storm, which gave me time to wonder at what I was doing and sense a niggling doubt that perhaps that I was inexorably losing control – was I here purely for pleasure or was it egotism? Did I really want to come back for more? But these moments were also good times, and I knew that the feelings would pass. Then I could excuse them as morbid pessimistic fears that had no sound basis.

In June 1985, experienced climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates ascended the unclimbed West face of the remote 21,000 ft. Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. After achieving the summit, Joe had an accident that left Simon faced with an impossible decision. Either cur the rope holding Joe or face dying with him. After making it back to base camp days later, Simon had the agony of telling their non-climbing companion that their friend had died. However, three days later they were astonished to hear Joe calling out as he crawled back into camp.

Touching the Void is a gripping non-fiction book that highlights human endurance and mental strength. Despite knowing the outcome, I remained tense throughout the book, which is a fast paced and fascinating read. It made me think about the psychological impact such an incident would have had on both men and it raised the debate of survival of the fittest. Simpson and Yates were in agreement that the right decision was made, but it still leaves the reader wondering – What would you do?

I have been an avid reader since my teens when I was introduced to my first classic book, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. That was the start of my love affair with books. I am always on the lookout for new reads so bring on your recommendations if you have any. Happy Reading!

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