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A mountaineer who fell into a crevasse twice while climbing the Andes managed to survive by crawling for over eight miles over the course of three days without food or shelter.
The Andes is a mountainous region that runs along the west of South America, with a range of more than 4,000 miles.
In 1985, Joe Simpson was navigating the area with his friend Simon Yates. The pair were tackling Siula Grande in Peru, which has a 6,400m peak.
Telling the climber's tale on the Incredible Feats podcast, host Dan Cummins explained that it wasn’t the ascent attempt, but the descent back down the mountain that saw Joe almost lose his life.
Making their way back down having reached the summit, Dan explained how Joe tried to hit a huge patch of ice with his pickaxe, before losing balance and sliding off a cliff face.
As a result of the heavy landing, Joe was left with a broken ankle miles away from their base.
His friend Simon rigged the pair together, hoping to use ropes to slowly lower Joe down the mountain.
The duo were able to struggle on like this for a while, however, the situation deteriorated when, with the path steepening, Joe slipped again and was left dangling above another crevasse.
With Simon unable to pull him up or descend to Joe, the pair were left in an agonising stand-off.
“150ft apart, the men cling to opposite ends of the rope in silent commiseration. If they stay like this, they’ll both surely die from exposure”, podcast host Dan explained.
Eventually, Joe fell. Realising that Simon had cut the rope, and with no help coming, he was forced to find a way out himself.
Dan suggested: “He crawls in the only direction he can; down, further into the crevasse. If he’s lucky, there’ll be an opening along the way, and there is – after hours, Joe finally crawls out into a ray of sunshine.
“Out of the crevasse, he still has to crawl 8 miles to base camp on a broken leg. Joe crawls for three days straight, with no food left.”
Eventually, the injured man's solo exertions meant he was reunited with his friend, and although leaving Joe in the crevasse appeared to be a selfish move, Dan suggested it was for the greater good.
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“Though Simon left Joe in the mountain, they have an understanding; Simon did what he did for them both to survive”, he suggested.
“Simon’s fingers were badly frostbitten. Had he kept hanging on, it wouldn’t have helped. He would have eventually had to let go, and he would have lost his fingers.”
When Joe was finally able to reach a hospital with the help of his friend three days later, he had lost 19kg.
Joe has since made a full recovery and even returned to mountaineering.
He published a book about his survival, Touching the Void, which has subsequently been made into a documentary.
- In the News
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