Monday, March 4, 2013


I struggled to really consider this book as an adventure most of the way through. Is enjoyment or fulfillment beyond basic survival a prerequisite to a real adventure? My first instinct is to say yes. It didn't seem like an adventure to me because Simpson spent most of the novel howling in pain and crawling across the rocks back to base camp after he had been left for dead. Furthermore, the ending seemed very abrupt; the author didn't elaborate on any personal goal he acquired, physical or mental. He writes, "Darkness slipped over the lights and slowly all sounds muffled down to silence." (Simpson 199) He survived, which is noteworthy and inspiring in itself, but would one really call his ordeal an adventure? 
Merriam Webster defines "adventure" as--
a: an undertaking usually involving danger or unknown risks.
b: an exciting or remarkable experience.

By the first definition, it is clear to me that the undertaking the climb of Siula Grande is an adventure. However, the second part, his struggle back to base camp with his broken knee and ankle, is not an adventure. The risks are not unknown; Simpson is clearly at a struggle with death that is more confrontational than the climb up the mountain. It is either he gets back to base camp or dies. If we go by the second definition, I would strongly doubt Simpson would consider the experience "exciting". It is clearly remarkable and inspiring for the people who hear of his tale. I couldn't help but perceive it differently than Into Thin Air because of the proportion of the book that focused on the painful descent. I think the difference is that Touching the Void doesn't have the commercialization aspect of the other, but still feels removed from adventure. 

My knock the "adventure" quality of this book isn't to criticize, merely question. I think there are other aspects that make the book even more adventurous than past works we have read. The other mountaineering adventures we have read have relied on heavy support by both supplies and people. It's refreshing to see two men entirely reliant on each other for survival. The intensity of the struggle is so much so that the injury of Simpson jeopardizes the survival of both. The beauty of their unspoken connection makes the realization all the more powerful. Simpson writes, "We both knew the truth; it was very simple. I was injured and unlikely to survive. Simon could get down alone. While I waited on his actions, it felt as if I was holding something terrifyingly fragile and precious." (Simpson 79) The fact that there are only two men in the party certainly raises the stakes of whatever danger they may face. One injury dooms the whole trip. That surely makes the challenge all that much sweeter and the intimacy that much closer. However, once one member gets injured, the adventure takes a different trajectory toward what seems like an unadventurous harrowing struggle for survival, with little personal growth. 

1 comment:

  1. To further the question, Joe seems to come to terms that this was an adventure regardless of the true excitement or lack there of. On page 206, Joe says that "We are fallible and accidents will happen". These accidents are unavoidable and are integral parts of the adventure. I also agree with your thoughts on the "beauty of their unspoken connection" while climbing. Dependence on one another was obvious at times, and not so obvious at others. On page 147, Joe with a broken leg and no morale follows the footprints ahead of him, whether they are really there or not just as Simon were up ahead of him and he wasn't alone. Even when they were separated, the subconscience dependence on one another never dies. As Simon tried to wipe the thoughts of Joe's death of his mind, it never left him. And for Joe, their friendship is responsible for saving his life. The feeling of never feeling too alone to the point of giving up is a result of the strong friendship they maintained.