Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson – True Story

In 1985, Yates and Simpson attempted a first-ascent of the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in alpine style. Several teams had previously tried and failed to climb this face. Yates and Simpson were successful in their attempt, and after summiting they descended via the difficult North Ridge. Disaster struck on the descent when Simpson slipped down an ice cliff and landed awkwardly, smashing his tibia into his knee joint and breaking it. The pair, whose trip had already taken longer than they intended because of bad weather on the ascent, had run out of fuel for their stove and could not melt ice and snow for drinking water. With bad weather closing in and daylight fading, they needed to descend quickly to the glacier, about 3,000 feet below.

Yates proceeded to lower Simpson off the North Ridge by tying two 150' lengths of rope together to make one longer 300-foot rope. However because the two ropes were tied together, the knot couldn't go through the belay plate. Simpson would have to stand on his good leg to give Yates enough slack to unclip the rope, in order to thread the rope back through the lowering device with the knot on the other side. With storm conditions worsening and darkness upon them, Yates inadvertently lowered Simpson off a cliff. Because Yates was sitting higher up the mountain, he could not see or hear Simpson; he could only feel that Simpson had all his weight on the rope. Simpson attempted to ascend the rope using a Prusik knot. However, because his hands were badly frost-bitten, he was unable to tie the knots properly and accidentally dropped one of the cords required to ascend the rope.

The pair were stuck in a very bad situation. Simpson could not climb up the rope, Yates could not pull him back up, and the cliff was too high for Simpson to be lowered down. They remained in this position for some time, until it was obvious that the snow around Yate's belay seat was about to give out. Because the pair were tied together, they would both be pulled to their deaths. Yates had little choice but to cut the rope.

When Yates cut the rope, Simpson plummeted down the cliff and into a deep crevasse. Exhausted and suffering from hypothermia, Yates dug himself a snow cave to wait out the storm. The next day, Yates carried on descending the mountain by himself. When he reached the crevasse he realized the situation that Simpson had been in, and what had happened when he cut the rope. After calling for Simpson and hearing no reply, Yates was forced to assume that he had died and so continued down the mountain alone.
Simpson, however, was still alive. He had survived the 150-foot fall despite his broken leg, and had landed on a small ledge inside the crevasse

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