Monday, 5 May 2008

Books of mountains

Been re-reading some books. The Beckoning Silence by Joe Simpson is one of my favourite books. Mountaineer Simpson, after twenty years on the mountains dodging death, decides it's time to pack it all in before fate catches up with him. The book is a memorial to friends lost to the mountains, to last climbs, and to The Eiger and the stunning achievements of those who struggled to put up a route on the formidable North Face in the "Golden Years" of Alpine mountaineering, in the 1930s. Simpson and Ray Delaney made their own attempt at the famous 1938 route up the face but retreated after the weather turned and a party climbing above them fell to their deaths.

This book fascinates me. Is it Simpson's fascination with the Eiger that infects me also? Maybe so. I mean, I've read Harrer's The White Spider, supposedly the last word in mountaineering and Eiger literature. But while it is a gripping tale of epic feats, I never read and re-read its passages in my mind for days after like I do with Simpson's book.

Joe Simpson is possibly best known by the general reading public for Touching the Void, the story of how he survived several days in the high Peruvian Andes, with a shattered knee and left for dead by his climbing companion, struggling out of a crevasse and across a glacier to make it back to their camp and to safety. It's a fabulous book and a truly gripping story. You really do wonder if he's going to make it out alive, somehow forgetting that of course he did otherwise you wouldn't be reading his account. But I like The Beckoning Silence more.

Go on, have a read.

6 comments:

Ghosty said...

I suppose it's better than what's in my room ... a mountain of books. :) I need to get more shelving ...

Hi Lis! LOL

Lis of the North said...

Hi Ghosty! Oh don't worry, I have mountains of books too. Stacked two deep vertically, then books laid on top. One shelf actually started to fall down so now I have three foot-high piles on the floor. Plus the "to-be-read" pile by my bed. It's shameful!

Stratford Girl said...

I loved the film Touching the Void --- would syou still recommend reading the book? may also give The Beckoning Silence a go!

Lis of the North said...

Hi SG. I really enjoyed the film too. I think they made it the only way it could be made, in that 1st person account/documentary style.
Definitely recommend reading the book!

William said...

I cried like a girl when I finished Touching The Void. Which doesn't happen often. Will check out the one you mention...

Lis of the North said...

Hey you. From the moment he first fell on the cornice I couldn't stop reading. And the passage when he finally comes in earshot of the tents...
I'd give you my copy of Silence but the pages are falling out a bit :(