Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure
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Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  197 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Without risk, say mountaineers, there would be none of the self-knowledge that comes from pushing life to its extremes. For them, perhaps, it is worth the cost. But when tragedy strikes, what happens to the people left behind? Why would anyone choose to invest in a future with a high-altitude risk-taker? What is life like in the shadow of the mountain? Such questions have...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 11th 2003 by St. Martin's Press (first published May 6th 2003)
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Melissa
I like reading mountain woe books pretty much because I don't know anyone who actually participates in this madness. This book is an interesting look at the people who have no choice in the matter, who are forced to participate because they have a son or daughter or husband or father who climbs. While I appreciate this perspective I hope I never need it. However, here's a line that made my blood run cold: "'He was always going upwards, from the time he was eighteen months old,' said the mother o...more
Beth666ann
If you are in a relationship with a mountaineer, the kind who craves extreme high-altitude excitement, then you must come to terms with the fact that you will probably rank second in that person's heart/mind in comparison with climbing mountains. This book seems to say that most mountaineers of this sort simply cannot or will not shift priorities; they cannot be happy or who they are at base unless they are able to risk their lives on mountains. Thus, if you are in a relationship with one of the...more
Tammy
If you’ve read any books about mountaineering’s great accomplishments, you’ve also likely read about its great tragedies as well. This book explores an issue rarely, if ever, brought up in these great heroic tales – what about those who are left behind? Is it essentially a selfish act to leave children and spouses for long periods of time in order to climb mountains at great personal risk?

This book gives a voice to those left behind, and the voices are mixed. Some rage against the narcissism of...more
Sue
I can't explain why I'm fascinated with reading books about high altitude climbing. I've never done it and I have no desire to do it. I've only ever been to snow-capped mountains twice (took the gondola ride to Mount Pilatus above Lucerne, Switzerland, and skied about 100 yards near Zillertal in Austria). Aside from the graceless skiing, everything I did was designed for pedestrians who just wanted to appreciate the view--which I did. It's breathtaking in more ways than one. And in that sense al...more
Wendi
Without risk, say mountaineers, there would be none of the self-knowledge that comes from pushing life to its extremes. For them, perhaps, it is worth the cost. But when tragedy strikes, what happens to the people left behind? Why would anyone choose to invest in a future with a high-altitude risk-taker? What is life like in the shadow of the mountain? Such questions have long been taboo in the world of mountaineering. Now, the spouses, parents and children of internationally renowned climbers f...more
Randy
"The world of high-altitude mountaineering is a place where the line between safety and disaster is finely drawn" says author Maria Coffey. She brings readers face-to-face with the reality that these elite climbers venture into a world where "accidents are commonplace; the fatality rate is high" (pages 137-138).

"Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow" was tough reading for me. I picked it up in the spring of 2011, read a little bit, and placed it in my "to finish someday" stack. Then my brother Ga...more
Angela
Nov 14, 2007 Angela rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I finished this book and promptly told my husband that I never want him climbing mountains. We've watched many different shows on Everest and the struggles that people go through in order to reach the tops of the mountains. However, it's quite rare that you get an idea of what the spouses and significant others go through.

This book offers a first-hand experience for those who live or know climbers, mountaineers, and adventurers. It really drives home how dangerous some of these sports are and ho...more
Mary
I read this book in late 2006, early 2007, after attending a screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival at Western Washington University. It was a rescheduled showing, due to 12+ inches of snow we'd had hit the city in one day. Keep in mind, this is a city that sold its only snow plow long ago. School and most offices were closed for an entire week. I've long loved the Banff Mountain Film Festival since I spent a summer in Banff taking a 4 week masterclass series with Stephen Maxym, the forme...more
Gwnhwyfer
Being an armchair mountaineer (the closest thing to a mountain I climb is a ladder), you always hear about the climbers - the thrill, the close shave, the impossible against all odds, and those that remain on the mountain. Maria Coffey presents the other side of the coin - the spouses, children, parents and friends left behind. She has presented a wide variety of perspectives, including her own as a girlfriend of a climber who didn't come home, showcasing the feelings and thoughts of those who d...more
Raghu
The author is the wife of an Everest climber, who eventually dies on one of his climbs. Through personal experience and interviews with the wives, lovers and children of other high-altitude climbers, she traces the psychological and emotional trauma that the spouses and partners and children of climbers go through in coping with the fears and worries as their better-half climbs yet again in high-risk mountains. The book tries to probe the reasons why climbers keep seeking out high-risk adventure...more
Jim
the best book about extreme sports i've read because it talks to the spouse's of the athletes.
there is a story that Lynda Petty asked her husband, when he was in a hospital bed, when he'd quit racing. "when it stops being fun," he said. a couple years later, after his nastiest wreck, when he gained consciousness she just about spit "are we still having fun?"
that is what Maria Coffee reminded me of, the person climbing Everest or K2 or driving 220 mph around Indy doesn't have the same experien...more
Yakking Yogini
I've read some really exciting mountain literature (Into Thin Air by Krakauer and The Climb by Anatoly Boukreev, so this book did not come close to providing the edge-of-your-seat excitement I was expecting. Too touchy-feely for me I guess, just wasn't in the mood. The main point of this book was to share the emotional trauma of family, spouses, children and friends when their loved one dies in a climbing accident. It happens more often than you think: the mortality rate is 14% for those who cho...more
Elaine Davenport
Great book to listen to while driving about the families of extreme mountaineers and what they experience when their loved one dies doing something so dangerous for their own needs
Kimberlybrennantyler
This book is a must read for anyone who has an interest in the human experience defined by extreme circumstances. The author explores the facets of mountaineering lifestyle's effects on those who didn't chose that lifestyle for themselves. With it's brutal honesty, it accounts the lives of those left behind after tragedy strikes and how the loss affects their lives. While it doesn't completely answer the question why some are compelled to put themselves in harms way despite family responsibiliti...more
Heather
Mountaineering from the survivors' perspective, including fellow climbers and family members makes this book a bit different than others. Coffey provides a cliff notes of sorts for climbing disasters and misunderstood priorities but doesn't delve into the why. Why are climbers compelled to take such extreme risks, even after they have married or had children? Coffey's personal narrative about her own mourning of Joe Trask is intimate and heartfelt. She references other works for the reader who w...more
Jenny
Great book about the emotional toll of loving someone who climbs and who loves the mountains ......

"from the foreword.....I went beyond the usual inquiry of why people climb, to ask why anyone would choose to love a person who repeatedly risks his or her life in the high mountains. What are the costs, and the gains, of such a choice? I also talked to the people who had no choice - the parents and the children of climbers. And through it all I found myself re-examining my own history and the reas...more
Lotte
Coffey's interviews with climbers and their families are generally painful, but heartbreakingly honest. I was fascinated by the drive of mountaineers and the loved ones who stay behind, whether at home or at base camp. The roller coaster existence of this small population seems based on the need for climbers to be in the mountains when they are not, and to be home as soon as they are on the slopes. Hats off to the individuals who have created a happy, if unorthodox, life with climbers.
Rob
Great balance between the highs and lows of mountain climbing. Definitely a sobering look at the sport. Gives balance to the other extreme sports books that make climbers out to be heroes. Really gives a great glimpse into what happens when they don't come home. I especially enjoying the comparison of mountain climbers to soldiers and how their families felt.
Stephanie
Really glad that I picked this up, as it shows a perspective of climbing that other books understandably don't focus on - the families of climbers and what they live through.

It would have been nice to have seen more than a token effort at examining some of the female climbers, though - most of the book focuses very much on the families of male climbers.
Abby Howell
If you are ever thinking of doing high altitude mountain climbing or dating/marrying someone who climbs, read this book first! Although it can get hard to take with its stories of one mountaineering accident after another, it gives interesting insights into the psychology of the people who choose a sport with such a high risk of death.
Lanell
Very depressing. And I can't comprehend the need to sacrifice so much to climb a mountain. At some point I feel like every person should be able to look at their life and realize there are more important things. But apparently mountaineers can't. It is their addiction.
Deb
Originally I didn't think I'd enjoy this book as much, but soon after I began, I couldn't put it down. It tells the story from the home front of alpinists and professional climbers. Many parallels can be drawn to military families and deployments.
Alison Godden
Hold your breath & even crying moments reading this book. You almost feel the pain the subjects in this book have gone through when losing loved ones to something as difficult to understand as climbing dangerous mountains
Carol
I found this a very interesting story. Mountain climbing gets so much press regarding the risks and highs experienced by the climber. Coffey addresses the pain of those left behind. A good read.
Alli
I wasn't crazy about the way it was organized and in the end I found the repetition distracting from the overall message. However, I did find this book interesting and insightful.
Rose East
Jan 19, 2012 Rose East rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those with a compulsion and the general reader.
Well written and gripping. Maria Coffey draws both on her own relationship with Joe Tasker and her knowledge of the climbing world and climbers to make this an insightful book.
Jennatjugglinglife
An interesting look at what drives extreme mountaineers and even more interestingly what drives the women (usually) who are their girlfriends, wives and partners.
Mary
I certainly never wanted to go mountain climbing, but after reading this book I really don't want to. It's a very dangerous sport!
Donald
Some good stories. This book was written by a girlfriend of a climber that passed away. Not bad stories, an interesting perspective.
Wendy Hollister
A sad book about the lives of mountain climbers who die doing the thing they love the most. Their families really suffer.
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