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"The April rain, the April rain,
Comes slanting down in fitful showers,
Then from the furrow shoots the grain,
And banks are fledged with nestling flowers;
And in grey shawl and woodland bowers
The cuckoo through the April rain
Calls once again."

Mathilde Blind, April Rain
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Touching the Void

mheredgemheredge TeacherHere and therePosts: 31,072 mod
Touching the Void is a 1988 book by Joe Simpson, recounting his and Simon Yates' successful but disastrous and nearly fatal climb of the 6,344-metre (20,813 foot) Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.The book won the 1989 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature and the 1989 NCR Book Award.

Simpson and Yates reach the summit of the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande. Upon descent, Simpson slipped down an ice cliff and landed awkwardly, crushing his tibia into his knee joint, thus breaking his right leg. The pair, whose trip had already taken longer than they intended due to bad weather on the ascent, had run out of fuel for their stove and could not melt ice or 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-foot lengths of rope together to make one 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 (left) 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 nor hear Simpson; he could only feel that Simpson had all his weight on the rope.

However, because his hands were badly frostbitten, 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, the cliff was too high for Simpson to be lowered down, and they could not communicate. They remained in this position for some time, until it was obvious to Yates that the snow around his belay seat was about to give out. Because the pair were tied together, they would both be pulled to their deaths. Yates had to make the hard decision to cut the rope in order to save his own life. Doing so may very well have also saved Simpson's life, as he would have died of exposure if he had been left to hang in the strong freezing wind for much longer.

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 made the assumption that Simpson 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. When Simpson regained consciousness, he discovered that the rope had been cut and realized that Yates would presume that he was dead. He therefore had to save himself. It was impossible for Simpson to climb up to the entrance of the crevasse (because of the overhanging ice and his broken leg). Therefore, his only choice was to lower himself deeper into the crevasse and hope that there was another way out. After lowering himself, Simpson found another small entrance and climbed back onto the glacier via a steep snow slope.

From there, Simpson spent three days without food and with almost no water, crawling and hopping five miles back to their base camp. This involved navigating the glacier (which was scattered with more crevasses) and the moraines below. Exhausted and almost completely delirious, he reached base camp only a few hours before Yates intended to leave the base camp and return to civilization.
Simpson's survival is widely regarded by mountaineers as amongst the most amazing pieces of mountaineering lore.


  • mheredgemheredge Teacher Here and therePosts: 31,072 mod
    Touching the Void is a 2003 docudrama survival film about Joe Simpson's and Simon Yates' disastrous and near-fatal climb of Siula Grande. Critically acclaimed, Touching the Void was listed in PBS' "100 'Greatest' Documentaries of All Time". The Guardian described it as "the most successful documentary in British cinema history".

    Production: The film stars Brendan Mackey as Joe Simpson, Nicholas Aaron as Simon Yates, and Ollie Ryall as Richard Hawking, and combines dramatizations with interviews with Simpson, Yates, and Hawking. Simpson and Yates doubled as their younger selves for long-distance shots of the snow-fluted couloirs of Siula Grande. The film was directed by Kevin MacDonald.

    When they collaborated on the film in 2003, Simpson and Yates had not seen one another for 10 years.

    During the making of the film, the director and producers invited Yates and Simpson to return to Siula Grande in 2002 for the first time since the events of 1985. Simpson, despite finding the return emotionally difficult and experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome on his return, eventually said that he was happy with the film and its portrayal of the events. Yates, on the other hand, reported having no emotional response to returning to Siula Grande, and decided to have nothing to do with the film once he had returned from the mountain.

    According to the film's end notes, Yates received a great deal of criticism from the mountaineering community for cutting the rope on his partner during the descent after the story of what happened to the climbers returned to England. Simpson has deeply accepted that Yates did the right thing and practically saved his life, and has always defended him on that matter.

    The film received largely positive reviews, with 93% of critics' reviews being positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Touching the Void won Best British Film at the 2004 BAFTA Awards. The film was long-listed for an Oscar Best Feature Documentary award but was not nominated as judges felt it was not a documentary so did not qualify for an Academy Award. Peter Knegt at the industry trade journal Indiewire calls it one of "10 incredible documentaries that weren't nominated for an Oscar".
    The BBC1's Film 2011 included Brendan Mackey's performance as Joe Simpson in their 'Top Five Actors' who "Should Have Won An Oscar", along with Ingrid Bergman (for Casablanca), Anthony Perkins (for Psycho), Ralph Fiennes (for Schindler's List) and Jeff Bridges (for The Big Lebowski).
    Box office: The film was released in theaters on 23 January 2004 and grossed $96,973 in the opening weekend. It went on to gross $4,593,598 in America and $9,292,204 from foreign markets for a worldwide total of $13,885,802 after 20 weeks.

    Music: Original music for the film was scored by Alex Heffes. The climbers reach the summit to the climax of Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium. During one of Simpson's many deliriums, he experiences a very strong reminiscence of a Boney M song he hated thoroughly, "Brown Girl in the Ring"; at one point thinking "Bloody hell, I'm going to die to Boney M".

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