Hexham Book Festival – Joe Simpson Lecture

Last night we attended a fascinating lecture at The Queens Hall.  The guest speaker was Joe Simpson.

Joe is a climber and writer.  His most famous book, “Touching the Void,” is a powerful, true story of the horrific injuries he suffered during the descent of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, but more importantly, what shines out through this story is his courage and determination to survive.  Touching the Void is one of the most poignant books I have ever read.  It stays with you for a long time.

Joe’s new book, “The Sound of Gravity” is a fictional novel but it promises to be a great read.  At the lecture last night the presenter read out this extract:

“It is said that sailors know their seas and mountaineers their mountains – but this is untrue.  They know how to exist in these regions, how to explore and travel and survive, but they do not truly know them, for they are ever-changing.  Weather changes everything and that is their watchword, not the oceans or the glaciers, nor the waves, nor the rock faces; it is the weather.”

Joe was very engaging and humorous during the talk.  He answered all the questions asked by the audience very candidly, but by far the most difficult question for him to answer was:

“You have been talking about climbing very much in the past tense tonight, and you mentioned earlier that your bad health has stopped you climbing now.  How are you coping without climbing?”

After a few attempts at trying to explain what climbing meant to him and how big a part of his life it had been he stumbled around the question and skirted around giving a definite answer for a few minutes.  Then, he finally confessed in a truly honest and direct manner that he was not coping very well without it.  He missed the sense of adventure, of going to extraordinary places with amazing friends.  He admitted he has yet to find something to replace climbing with.  At that point in the evening, I think he won the compassion and understanding of every single audience member.

 

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