The Beckoning Silence

The Beckoning Silence

by Joe Simpson

I had to stand there and watch while the rest of my life was determined by the shaky adhesion of a few millimetres of fractured ice and the dubious friction of a tiny point of metal in a hairline crack in a rock wallMarking the climax of his climbing career, Joe Simpson confronts his fears and mountaineering history in an assault on the North Face of the Eiger.

He has endured the painful attrition of climbing friends in accidents which call into question the perilously exhilarating activity to which he has devoted his whole life.

The tragic loss of a close friend forces a momentous decision.

Never more alive than when most at risk, he has come to see a last climb on the mile-high North Face of the Eiger as the cathartic finale to his climbing career.In a narrative that takes the reader through extreme experiences from an avalanche in Bolivia, ice-climbing in the Alps and Colorado and paragliding in Spain -- before his final confrontation with the Eiger -- Simpson reveals the inner truth of climbing, exploring the power of the mind and the frailties of the body through intensely lived accounts of exhilaration and despair.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 4.04
  • Pages: 315
  • Publish Date: June 1st 2003 by Mountaineers Books
  • Isbn10: 0898869412
  • Isbn13: 9780898869415

Read the Book "The Beckoning Silence" Online

In this book, Simpson expertly describes his search for meaning beyond the quests, losses, and philosophical realizations that have defined his life- and the lives of others.

I haven't read Touching the Void, but I loosely know the story, and apparently this book treads different ground in that it's a lot more philosophical, questioning why people climb mountains and investigating the impact of death on those around them. Throughout the book, Simpson recounts the stories of other climbers who were all successful and skillful until their unexpected deaths. These details I did find really interesting, especially the often tragic stories of those climbers in the 1920s and 30s who attempted the Eiger with only rudimentary climbing equipment. After being made aware of an article in which fellow climbers attempted a different route along the mountain but turned back, Simpson seems almost gleeful that they failed and he hadn't - despite that they all returned unharmed. When Simpson actually meets one of his heroes, Anderl Heckmair, who successfully climbed the North face, at the foot of the Eiger Simpson seems less interested in recounting the hour-long conversation they had about the mountain and more interested in talking about how Heckmair had recognised his name from his account of his Siula Grande experience. A quick search of wikipedia afterwards told me that he attempted climbing the Eiger a further 5 times after this account, making a lie out of everything previously written in the book. An interesting book with a fast-pace and some excitement, but really I could've done without the endless discussions about death and fear if nothing was going to come of them in the end.

This book was an interesting combination of Joe talking about various different experiences while climbing, some personal experiences from his own life, and also accounts of earlier climbers who attempted the north face of the Eiger, which all built up to Joe's decision on whether to climb the face, and also his feelings about climbing and whether to continue.

The main focus of the end of the book is his attempt on the North face of the Eiger, a route he and his friend Ray Delaney had always wanted to do.

By the end of the book I think every reader can understand why Joe Simpson would consider retiring from climbing. I'm also glad I don't have to, anymore." I think Joe Simpson would be able to relate to my dad's remark.

I am a fan of Simpson's writing and very much enjoyed "Touching the Void" for both it's writing and the story itself and this has obviously given him some notoriety and admiration in the mountaineering community, and deservedly so. This is the best part of the book by far in my opinion; atmospheric, gripping and real (as is typical of Simpson's best writing).