Sunday, January 16, 2011

Touching the Void - Kevin McDonald

Rating: ****
Touching the Void was easily the best film I have ever had the pleasure of watching in a class. Since viewing it, I have been on a frantic search for Joe Simpson’s book of the same name, from which the documentary was based.
Touching the Void tells the story of two ambitious climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who successfully become the first to climb the 6, 344 metre West Face of Siula Grande in Peru. Ignoring obvious and numerous signs of danger, the two reach the summit, but disaster strikes on the way down. Joe slips and breaks his leg, making it impossible for him to climb down. Simon refuses to abandon Joe, so they devise a way for Simon to lower Joe down the face with ropes. In the midst of a blizzard, Simon lowers Joe of a ledge and has no choice to cut the rope. Joe falls into a massive crevasse, and Simon continues his decent. Joe first accepts that death is inevitable, but with new motivation is able to escape the crevasse, drag himself for miles across glaciers and rocks, and reaches base camp. Simon finds Joe delirious, dehydrated, and starving, but the two survive their climb.
Although the film was incredible on so many levels, the thing that amazed me the most was Joe’s determination and resilience. That he could survive exposure to the freezing cold snow and wind, and cope with the pain breaking his leg and repeatedly falling on it. Joe had no food or water for days, and somehow managed to escape the ordeal with his life. It is a story like this that is true inspiring when you think of what a person can overcome in the face of great adversity. Another thing that amazed me in the documentary was how incredibly ill-prepared these two climbers were. Joe and Simon lacked the experience to even attempt to climb the face. They were cocky and in search of adventure, but it nearly got them both killed. They did not have enough fuel, food, or water to last the climb. When their first plan of action failed, they had no backup plan, but continued their climb anyways. They also had little knowledge of the face they were climbing. All in all, the climb was quite foolish for Joe and Simon to attempt. They certainly inspire me not to ever attempt any outdoor venture before careful and thorough pre-trip planning.
I highly recommend this film, and sincerely hope that the book will be just as incredible.
• Touching the Void. Dir. Kevin Macdonald. Perf. Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron, Joe Simpson. MGM, 2004. DVD.

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