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Touching the Void

Sport|15 Oct, 2012|47 Comments |
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Rating: 3.1/5 (9 votes cast)

Mountain climbing can be an adventurous and fun sport. But not when it goes wrong. Touching the Void documents the story of two climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates on a disastrous climb in the Andes in 1985. Through the climbers stories and reenactments the viewer sees the horrors that Simpson and Yates had to go through. Just when you think they are in the clear it gets worse. Truly a magnificent story that needs to be shared.

‘Touching the void’ is a documentary film made by Kevin MacDonald, shown at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival. It features Brendan Mackey as Simpson and Nicholas Aaron as Yates, enacting the climb and descent of the two adventurous mountaineers on the west face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

These daring and experienced mountaineers climbed the mountain without setting up ropes or base camps ahead of time. Though they had to tackle a snowstorm and some treacherous climbing, they safely reached the summit in three days after scaling about 21,000 feet.

But that was not it; the climb down turned to be more complicated and fiercely tested their nerve. Simpson broke his leg badly after falling down at a crucial juncture. Yates decided to try to lower Simpson down the mountain, one 300-foot section of rope at a time. What added to the woes of these steely mountaineers was the fact that they had run out of gas to melt snow making them unable to stop as night came, when unfortunately a violent snowstorm began. Their plodding, excruciatingly painful journey hit a hurdle when Yates accidentally lowered Simpson over the edge of a cliff.

They couldn’t hear each other’s cries in the raging storm, and, Yates, uncertain as to Simpson’s position, and gradually sliding down the slope himself, had to cut the rope that connected them, sending Simpson plummeting to a certain fatal end. Quite astonishingly Simpson survived the fall, and was faced with the greater challenge of getting off the mountain alone with no food, no water, and a broken leg.

Touching the Void, 3.1 out of 5 based on 9 ratings
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  1. Apparently you must have been present when Joe Simpson had his accident, so you just KNOW who made which mistakes and readily deliver your judgement.Apparently you are Mr Super-Climber and Over-Mountaineer who knows everything (if only from movies or internet sites). You have certainly summitted all mountains above 18,000 feet, have never had an accident and have never made a mistake, right? Mr Alpine Super-Hero!

  2. -3-Joe Simpson himself wrote in “Touching the Void” that Simon Yates did more for him than he could have ever expected from a rope companion and than he could ever repay to him. He also stated that he would have acted in exactly the same way if he had been in Simon’s position, i. e., he would have cut the rope, too.So, if even the affected person admits that he would have done the same thing, who are you to know everything better? Were you present when the accident happened?

  3. -2-Simon was virtually nailed down in his position and he felt that he his own power was gradually fading and owing to the bad weather he could neither hear Joe (nor could Joe hear him) nor could he see that Joe had slipped down an overhang and was suspended.He had no choice but to cut the rope if he didn’t want to die, and mountaineering tradition does require climbers to help each other but does not require any climber to throw their lifes away for others.-3-

  4. You’re obviously an egghead who has never been on a mountain. What Simon Yates did for Joe Simpson is nothing short of spectacular: when Joe broke his leg, he expected Simon to leave him at 20,000 ft, but Simon dragged him down the ridge almost to the beginning of the glacier field, which is a heroic feat with which Simon put his own life at a great risk. Remember that the rope was under tension, so Simon had no chance to get the necessary slack, and his own belay was about to break loose.-2-

  5. The two options pointed out by zthomasack fit a scenario which doesn’t exist at all because Simon got a Prusik sling like Joe. If he would use it the way I described he wouldn’t have to cut the rope to save his own life. He could let down Joe to the ground using the ropes tied together. No one gets hurt. I used that technique one time in emergency and it worked flawlessly. So my question is: Was Simon too stupid to use a Prusik or what went wrong?

  6. Well, as someone else points out: 1. If Simon didn’t cut the rope they would both die 2. He cuts the rope Simon will survive and Joe will die (although he didn”t). In that scenario, the right thing morally must be to cut the rope.

  7. It is a weird movie. They got Prusik knots (that thing Joe looses when he tries to climb up the rope with it) to solve the Problem with the knot tying the ropes together but Simon don’t use them to lock the first rope when putting the second one trough the belay device. Unbelievable to cut the buddy from the rope in such a situation with a Prusik hanging on the belt. With such a climbing buddy you need no enemies or bad weather in the mountains to loose your life. :-(

  8. (4of4)…strength left to get him up all the way again with that lifting block technique. But in that case I would first search for him and if that is too dangerous I would mark the place where it happened and try to reach the base camp looking to get some ppl up there for searching. How can somebody sit in a base camp for days with good weather without physical evidence that his buddy is dead? Sorry but IMHO this is a very weird story. And BTW: Dying to Boney M is really unpleasant. ;-)

  9. (3of4)…me to build another 10 Prusiks using the biners of my quickdraws if I loose my two preconfigured ones by accident. There are situations in climbing you’re definetely run out of options. But this one is none of them. Not even with the material of that time. Hell, I would never go big rock climbing with a buddy that doesn’t know this Prusik basics. Maybe I would cut the rope if the length of all ropes together isn’t enough to put my buddy on the ground and I got not enough…

  10. (2of4)…works. With 2 Prusik ropes you can even build something like a lifting block/chain-block to lift a heavy person with your own hands up in such a situation. Basically shown here: ttp:// . You need the second Prusik to lock the main rope to pull further if the first Prusik hits your carabiner or belay device. So it is all a matter of knowledge and equipment. I would never cut a buddy of the rope in such a case. I take enough of small static ropes with..

  11. (1of4) You don’t have to cut the rope in such a situation if you use the kind of knot (called Prusik knot in my country) Joe wanted to use to climb up the rope. You can block the first rope with this Prusik knot BEFORE the knot that ties the ropes together hits your belay device, open up or cut this “rope-tying-knot” away, put the second rope into your belay device and make a new knot that ties the ropes together again. Then cut the Prusik away. I’ve done that one time in emergency and it…

  12. Jesus, am I the only one that feels weak in the knees when I see the shots of the spiked shoes climbing up an utterly vertical face hundreds of feet above the ground? You must have to be completely unafraid of heights to handle this kind of climbing, especially since the vertical aspects are almost the ENTIRE climb!Yeah, I could NEVER do what these guys do.

  13. zthomasack says:

    @otavioandradas I recall that Simon thought it was useless; he just assumed Joe was dead because of the treacherous drop made worse by the fact that in normal circumstances the drop would not end just below the snowcap but rather hundreds of feet futher below. Unfortunately, not all individuals rely on phyisical evidence for their beliefs in events, unlike you and I ;-) I feel that if Simon had called out to Joe though, he would have laid back, confident, until his eventual death

  14. @zthomasack I saw this film long ago and I don’t remember all the explaining, but I wonder why Simon didn’t look for help as soon as he got back to the tent. He assumed his friend was dead without any physical evidence.

  15. zthomasack says:

    @otavioandradas The way I look at it, Simon could have done nothing to help Joe even after seeing the body-print on top of the snow cap of the crevasse. There is simply no way that Simon could have — even with Richard’s help — pulled Joe up from the crevasse, ensuring his safety. Simon and Joe both address this in the epilouge of the book Touching the Void. Ironically, if Simon had called out to Joe, Joe probably would have continued sitting there, ensuring his death.

  16. until they grow up,for many people, if death had not been involved,,most of us wouldn’t be involved, is the motto,,,,, as long as rescuers,are not at risk ,,,,go for it,,,ps you can get similiar thrills from russian roulette,lol

  17. I understand the desire to see what no one has, but still, mountain climbing like this where your life is at risk is just that…a risk…one I could not ever imagine doing…I have a gross fear of heights in my older years….beautifully shot…wonder how they managed to do this while climbing.

  18. @homie0187 well, i live in holland and i go to a tto school, that means i get subjects like geography and history and many more in english instead of dutch , just to improve my english, and a have an extra subject called ”english 2” and than we always have to do this kind of stuff

  19. adsahar says:

    Since I discovered this film I watched it quite a lot of times… the atmosphere is just so much “fun” when you watch it. You really “feel” like they “feel”. The funny thing is, it took me time to realize that they attempted this when I was just born. :o

  20. zthomasack says:

    Option 1) Simon Yates doesn’t cut the rope and they’ll likely both die. Option 2) Simon Yates cuts the rope; He is likely to survive but Joe Simpson s likely to die, It’s obvious that one should cut the rope in this sort of situation. In mountaineering, this would be the correct thing to do.

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