Climbers who court danger in the world's highest places risk far more than just their own skins. When tragedy strikes, what happens to the people who love them? Why would anyone choose to invest in a future with a high-altitude climber? What is life like in the shadow of the mountain? Such questions have long been taboo within the international world of mountaineering. Now Maria Coffey breaks this silence. She recounts climbers' stories of near-death experiences, and gives a voice to the families and loved ones of Chris Bonington, Ed Viesturs, Anatoli Boukreev and Alex Lowe, amongst many other famous names. Her riveting narrative weaves tales of adventure with first-person accounts of the people left behind, highlighting the conflicting beauty, passion and devastation of this alluring obsession. Coffey confronted one of the harshest realities of mountaineering when her lover, Joe Tasker, disappeared on the NE Ridge of Everest in 1982. With an insider's understanding, she explores the addictive highs and inevitable lows of this challenging, unusual lifestyle.
She describes the stress of long separations, the constant threat of bereavement, and the lives shattered in the wake of climbing accidents. She examines what compels climbers to return repeatedly to the mountains, and why, despite the costs, our society continues to laud their exploits. Coffey's ground-breaking book tackles the romantic myth of mountaineering, painting a shockingly real picture of its private world, its extraordinary moments of exhilaration and its far-reaching personal costs.
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