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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  53,248 ratings  ·  1,897 reviews
Touching the Void is the heart-stopping account of Joe Simpson's terrifying adventure in the Peruvian Andes. He and his climbing partner, Simon, reached the summit of the remote Siula Grande in June 1985. A few days later, Simon staggered into Base Camp, exhausted and frost-bitten, with news that that Joe was dead.

What happened to Joe, and how the pair dealt with the psych
Paperback, 218 pages
Published February 3rd 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published 1988)
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Brian Fagan Yes. It challenges your imagination to "see" what they are doing in 3 dimensions. …moreYes. It challenges your imagination to "see" what they are doing in 3 dimensions. (less)
YellowPecoraH It's about two mountaineers and their incident in Perù during a climbing…moreIt's about two mountaineers and their incident in Perù during a climbing(less)

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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  53,248 ratings  ·  1,897 reviews

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Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone, even non-climbers
Recommended to Graham by: Denali
One of my absolute favorite books, it transcends the genre.

Some readers might be put off by talk of abseils, carabineers and crampons, but this is more than a book about mountaineering, this is a book about being human. It speaks of mortally, determination, suffering, hope, and friendship. Joe Simpson conveys what climbing is to reader whom has never be off asphalt, what suffering is to the reader whom has never been off a cushion, and, what friendship is to the lonely. This book will take you t
Mike Steven
Jul 24, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Joe Simpson had a remarkable experience - totally of his whole making, but nevertheless the way he survived was pretty amazing. Sadly, reading about it is a far less remarkable experience. To enjoy the book, you may need to really know what a 'col' is, what a 'moraine' is and the dangers and qualities of three types of snow and countless types of ice.

Essentially, it's one hundred pages of very, very detailed descriptions of climbing up a mountain - who belayed when is covered in full detail, as
I never really understood what there was to debate in the "big debate" surrounding Touching the Void.

Joe Simpson and Simon Yates made the first ascent on the west face of Siula Grande in 1985 but ran into some serious trouble coming back down. A storm kicked up, and Simpson fell on the ice, driving his tibia through his knee. His leg was a serious mess, and the pair tried to descend as fast as they could with the bad weather getting worse (more on that later).

They made their descent with Yates h
Pete Marchetto
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Long, long ago, I used to play pool in the Broadfield pub in Sheffield. I used to play another bloke regularly, nice guy - if a bit irascible at times - and, one day, he asked me what I did. "Writer," I said, "but unsuccessful."

"Oh," he said. "I've written a book too. Published. It's not doing too badly."

He seemed like an interesting bloke, intelligent, given to philosophising, had seen a bit of the world as a mountain climber, so I thought I'd give it a shot - as much out of politeness as anyth
Joe Simpson and Simon Yates were young, fearless and a little too careless when they attempted to climb a 21,000 peak in the Andes.
They were tired of their climbs in the Alps with all the traffic and thought a secluded climb in a beautiful setting would be a welcome change.
They were enjoying their seclusion on the mountain until disaster struck.

Joe Simpson suffers a serious fall and breaks his leg on the top of the mountain. He is completely helpless and wholly dependent on Simon to save his l
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I remember seeing this documentary years ago, but had never read the book. It was just as harrowing to read and I could feel the tension & fear leap off the pages. Usually, when set in very cold climes, I also feel that also, but weirdly this time I did not. The description of the pristine mountains, snow & ice walls did loom very menacing in my mind, I suppose because I knew what was coming.
Joe & his friend Simon were going to attempt a first ascent to the summit of one of the Andes mountains.
Dec 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
okay. i am still not going to climb any mountains, at least not any that are covered with glaciers and are over 10K feet.
but what really got me about this story, what deeply deeply moved me to a new understanding of human endurance, was not that he climbed the peruvian andes, suffered sub zero temperatures huddled in a dugout snow cave, got frostbitten digits, put his life in his climbing partner's hands, or alternately held his climbing partner's life in his own hands, or that he shattered his
Exciting? Yes!
This is the quintessential survival story, and it is true!

In 1985 Joe Simpson and Simon Yates decide to climb the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. I am no mountaineer, but even I could spot some of their errors. The book focuses on moral issues too.
(view spoiler)
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adventure memoir junkies
This book operates on two speeds: fast and faster. If I hadn't been reading several other books at the same time, it would have been a one or two day read with its scanty 174 pages.

The story takes place on Peru's 21,000 foot Siula Grande, a peak in the Andes Mountain range. Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, are alone on the mountain when disaster strikes and Joe slips, falls and fractures his leg. Plenty of excitement follows, but I will leave mention of any details for readers
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy nonfiction mountain climbing books
Ok, even though the reader knows how it ends: as one of the mountaineers wrote this book, it’s incredibly suspenseful. I do seem to adore mountain climbing books, although it’s a totally vicarious experience as you could never get me on one of these expeditions. Especially this one as their method was different than all the other accounts I’ve read of mountain climbers. On the one hand I felt infuriated with these 2 men for taking such huge risks, but their story is unbelievably riveting and wel ...more
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: walks, hills, 1980s
Not since Moses climbed up Sinai to meet his maker has the story of a man, a mountain, and a brush with infinity attracted so much attention as Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void (1988). The book has become a favorite with adrenaline addicts and is found near the top of most mountain literature must-read lists. Though the first chapters are laced with technical climbing jargon, the great chunk of the story is related in the short cries, grunts, and obscenities you would expect to find popping from ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“...[..]...Bottomless, I thought idly. No. They’re never bottomless. I wonder how deep I will go? To the the water at the bottom? God ! I hope not!....
...The stars went out, and I fell. Like something come alive, the rope lashed violently against my face and I fell silently, endlessly into nothingness, as if dreaming of falling. I fell fast, faster than I thought, and my stomach protested at the swooping speed of it. I swept down, and from far above I saw myself falling and felt noth
Anita Pomerantz
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A gripping and horrifying mountaineering story, but there were a few things that didn't make it as exciting for me as Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, which remains my favorite of the genre.

The best part of the writing in this particular book is how Joe relates his inner voice as he attempts to save himself from a desperate situation. At the end of the book, he states, " . . .however painful readers may think our experiences were, for me this book still falls shor
Chris Dietzel
Jun 08, 2013 rated it liked it
A straight forward story of a couple mistakes on a mountain leading to one climber fighting to survive for a couple days as he makes his way back to camp. I liked it but found myself wishing for more in terms of revelations that go on in that type of situation. In terms of nonfiction mountain disaster stories, I much preferred Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster and Lost on Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine. In terms of nonfiction survival stories, I much prefe ...more
We climbed 'cause it's fun. And mainly it was fun. That's all we ever did. And we were fairly anarchic and fairly irresponsible, and we didn't give a damn about anyone else or anything else, and we just wanted to climb the world. And it was fun. It was just brilliant fun. And every now and then it went wildly wrong. And then it wasn't. ~ Joe Simpson

I must confess: I’m a couch potato. I’m not proud but I’m honest. Regardless, this doesn’t keep me from enjoying watching others push their bodies to
Mar 17, 2009 rated it liked it
This is the second time I have read Joe Simpson's Touching the Void. In younger years, when I had more energy and less sense, I probably would have rated it four stars instead of three. Not now.

As to adventure, it pumps adrenalin through readers' veins as fast as the government these days pumps money through the failing finincial institutions, especially after a major catastrophe and the so-called ethical dilemma toward the middle of the book.

What becomes very obvious very soon is how young, imm
Courtney Allen
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Picture this: an incredible panoramic view of a rugged mountain range and the camera slowly pans to the point where you see two tiny black specs climbing a 21,000 foot, shear-faced mountain wall. It's well below freezing. The wind is ripping through the air. And two climbers are hanging by their fingertips and boot toes but lashed together with a single strand of nylon rope and a few pitons hammered into the rock. After twelve hours, they crest an outcrop of rock and have just enough room to sit ...more
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
After ascending a 21,000 foot peak in the Andes, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are on their way down when Joe falls and breaks his leg. Rather than leave his partner behind, Simon begins the arduous task of belaying Joe down the face of the mountain. Suddenly, as Simon is lowering Joe into the mists, all of Joe's weight pulls the rope taught. After several minutes, with no release of weight and his own position in serious danger, Simon makes the painful decision to cut the rope on his partner.
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this (listened actually) in three days, in long intense sections, feeling the cold bitter wind blow through my car in Covid Lock Down minor traffic. My hands feeling frostbitten as I washed dishes, and just sitting staring at my floor, as the moral calculus of Simon's decisions rang through my head. I immediately watched the movie with a climbing friend of mine. We paused often to discuss the realities of what these two men had survived.

I must also say the movie is very true to the book.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a classic among mountain climbing memoirs. A terrible climbing accident on a particularly dangerous mountain leads to an extraordinary story of survival. The writing was stellar, creating an immediacy to each scene with such power that, despite knowing the outcome, I was on the edge of my seat throughout. In any other book, this would easily gain four stars from me. However, this book also made me so angry. I don’t understand the impetus to engage in such highly risky activities just for ...more
If you are looking for a great book about rock climbing/mountaineering, or a book about beating the odds, or a book that is just going to make you squirm in sympathetic pain, then this is the book for you. It’s a great story and true; it’s terrifying and gripping. I read it mostly on the edge of my seat. Simpson’s very blunt and straight forward storytelling is refreshingly honest and humble, and it also places you directly in the moment with him. There is no buffer between the reader and the na ...more
Considering the circumstances here (mountaineer up 19,000 feet breaks his leg, saves himself after his partner is forced to leave him), this book should've been captivating. I should've been entirely engrossed by this survival story. Really, the page count could've been halved and we could've had 90% less mountaineering terminology. There was no emotion in this; the storytelling was flat. The mountain had more personality than the two climbers. ...more
Nancy Baker
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't know when I have read a book that left me so emotionally exhausted. And knowing (or worrying about) the fact that my resting heart rate only averages around 50, yet while reading this book I could actually FEEL my heart pumping in my throat, it left me equally physically exhausted. I'll start out by saying that I'm afraid of heights -- deathly afraid of heights. So why would I read a true story about two men attempting to climb a face of the Peruvian Andes not yet conquered? Honestly -- ...more
May 12, 2008 rated it really liked it

My husband went to prep school with Joe Simpson in England (although Simpson's a few years older than him), so I've wanted to read this book for some time.

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, climbed a mountain peak in the Andes--the 21,000-foot Siula Grande. While ascending, Joe broke his leg...which can be an immediate death sentence for mountain climbers. However, Simon risked his own life to lower Joe 3,000 feet down the mountain while Jo
Brian Fagan
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Are there hobbies or sports that you enjoy reading about but never had thoughts of trying? For me one is mountain climbing. I love reading about perilous climbs, but never did anything along those lines, just two 14ers that did not require technical know-how. On both I found serious fatigue and headache above 11,000 feet, so anything beyond those two summits wasn't meant to be for me anyway. The latest climbing book I read was Joe Simpson's Touching the Void. It was written in 1988 and tells the ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, favorites
This is a story which asks you so many questions of yourself. What would you have done? How much inner strength do you have? Physical strength is only one aspect of survival. Could I forgive someone who left me to die? Could I leave someone to die? I read this before I saw the excellent film but I don't think it would matter which way round you met this amazing story. ...more
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent narration of his trials and tribulations when climbing/descending one of the most hazardous of mountains. Joe writes with emotion and while reading I felt like I was there with them all. Whether luck or experience is responsible for his timely escape, the reader is taken on a journey that most don't ever experience. ...more
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The power of the mind, and the fragility of life. Our mind decides our course of actions and destine. Joe Is a good writer. Simon is a strong character to write about.
This is the story of young mountaineer Joe Simpson. Along with his friend Simon Yates, he is attempting to climb a mountain in Peru, Siula Grande by a route that had never been climbed before. During their time in the mountains, however, disaster strikes. First a fall leaves Joe with a serious injury and while they are trying to get back down the mountain, another fall results in Simon having to cut the rope joining them together to save his own life and effectively condemning Joe to die on Siul ...more
Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: survival
This is a classic survival book and it includes examples of all the things I look for in a good classic read. Two young mountain climbers attempt a new ascent of a remote mountain in Peru. To save weight and space they do not take enough tools and food with them, then weather and other unexpected difficulties lead to the ascent taking longer than expected. The two climbers push themselves when they should have rested and take some other unnecessary risks so when the author Joe Simpson falls and ...more
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Joe Simpson is the author of the bestselling Touching the Void, as well as four subsequent non-fiction books published by The Mountaineers Books: This Game of Ghosts, Storms of Silence, Dark Shadows Falling, and The Beckoning Silence. The Beckoning Silence won the 2003 National Outdoor Book Award. The other three published by The Mountaineers Books were all shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Awa ...more

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