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The Beckoning Silence (Anglais) Broché – 2 janvier 2003

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Description du produit



Games on a dangerous stage

The ice was thin and loosely attached to the rock. I could see water streaming beneath the opaque layer undermining its strength. I glanced down to the left and saw Ian 'Tat' Tattersall hunched over, stamping his feet at the foot of the ice wall. He was cold and I was taking far too long. I could sense his impatience. This first pitch of Alea Jacta Est, a 500-foot grade V ice climb looming above the valley of La Grave in the Hautes Alpes, France, should have been relatively straightforward. It had felt desperately difficult and precarious.

I looked down at where I had placed my last ice screw in a boss of water ice protruding from a fractured and melting ice wall 35 feet below me. If I fell now I would drop 80 feet and I knew the ice screw would not hold me. The ice boss would shatter and it would be instantly ripped out. It had quickly become apparent that the route was in poor condition. Lower down I had found myself moving from solid ice onto a strange skim of water ice overlaying soft, sugary snow. It was just strong enough to hold my axe picks and crampon points but it would never hold an ice screw. Hoping for an improvement I had climbed higher and moved diagonally towards the right side of the wall. Then the ice began to resemble something more commonly found furring up the icebox in my fridge. I moved tentatively over rotten honeycombed water ice and onto frightening near-vertical slabs of rime ice - a feathery concoction of hoarfrost and loosely bonded powder snow. It was now impossible to down-climb safely and I tried to quell a rising tide of panic as I had headed gingerly towards the ice boss that was gleaming with a wet blue sheen near where a rock buttress bordered a rising curtain of ice.

As I twisted the ice screw into the boss, I watched in dismay as a filigree pattern of cracks spread through water ice. I saw water seeping out from beneath the fractures and stopped winding the screw. Clipping the rope to the screw I tried to ignore the fact that it was my first point of protection and that it wouldn't hold my weight let alone a fall. If I fell, I knew that I would hit the ground from over 100 feet. I glanced back at Tat but he wasn't looking at me. It was surprising how very lonely you can suddenly feel.

I moved up slowly, gently hooking my axe picks in melt holes in the ice, careful to pull down and not out. Myright foot slipped away as wet ice sheared from the rock and I shuddered down, then stopped. I breathed deeply and stepped up again, forcing the single front-point of my crampons into a shallow crack in the rock and balancing on it as I reached higher and planted my axe into a marginally thicker layer of ice. There was a cracking noise as the ice flexed free of the underlying rock, then silence as it held my weight. I held my breath and pulled steadily on the axe shaft.

The route description mentioned a near-vertical wall of ice trending rightwards. I remembered the old adage about ice climbing which stated that 75-degree ice feels vertical and vertical ice seems overhanging. I felt physically strong but mentally my resolve had begun to crumble. It had been a slow, insidious leeching away of my confidence directly proportional to the height I gained. Above me a rock wall reared up and the ice curved into a short corner. I spotted a small piece of red tape poking out from beneath a fringe of wet snow. The belay, I thought with relief, protection, safety at last.

My spirits rose at the welcome sight and I made delicate moves up the ice wall until I was perched cautiously on the tips of my crampon points digging into a moustache of frozen moss and turf. I was alarmed to notice that the turf was not part of a rocky ledge but simply a tuft of vegetation glued to the rock wall. I reached up with my axe and carefully pushed the pick through the small loop of red tape. An experimental tug indicated that it was a solid anchor and I relaxed as the tension ebbed away.

'I've found the belay,' I shouted over my shoulder. There was no answer from below. I swept the dusting of snow from around the tape, hoping to reveal a couple of strong bolts. My heart sank as I saw two knife-blade pitons that had been driven half their length into a hairline crack in the rock. The tape had been tied off around the blades to reduce the outward leverage that would have been exerted if the eyes of the pitons had been clipped. I looked quickly around for some other protection to back up this worryingly feeble belay. There was nothing. No cracks for wires or pitons and the nearest ice was too thin and weak to take an ice screw.

I looked down past my boots. A rocky buttress plunged away beneath my crampon points. There was now a fall of over 150 feet if the two blade pegs ripped out. I began to feel nervous. A shout from below was muffled by the sound of a passing truck on the nearby road.

'What?' I yelled.

'Are you safe?' Tat yelled. I glanced at the two pegs and my stomach tightened. This isn't good, I told myself sternly. We're on holiday. This is supposed to be fun!

'I'm not sure,' I muttered to myself, then leaned out and shouted. 'OK, Tat. Be careful. The ice is crap and the belay isn't much better.'


Great. He can't hear me.

'Climb!' I yelled, trusting that Tat was too good a climber to fall off the pitch. When he reached the last ice screw and was in earshot I told him about the belay.

'Is it in the right place?' he asked.

'Well, I think so, but having said that I was expecting bolts, so maybe not.'

'Why didn't you carry on?' Tat asked. His tone was critical.

'I was a long way above a bad runner, the ice was bad and I saw what I thought was the belay,' I said, sharply angered that my efforts on the first pitch hadn't been appreciated. I knew that to follow it with the security of a rope from above would have presented few problems to a climber of Tat's skill but surely he must have noticed the poor ice and lack of protection?

'I thought it was pretty hairy down there,' I added, with a note of petulance in my voice. It had unnerved me and I felt embarrassed to have displayed such weakness. Tat remained unconvinced. 'And I didn't like the look of that,' I added nodding at the vertical 20-foot rock corner draped on its left side with mushy, crumbling ice. In truth, I was scared. The pitch below had seemed insecure and although I had climbed it competently I had constantly been aware that it was much harder than it should have been. The conditions were deteriorating and the short corner looked horribly risky.

'I don't think this is in good nick,' I said, as Tat climbed up to stand level with my feet.

'No,' Tat said as he examined the corner.

'You'll have to get a runner in before you try that,' I cautioned. 'Otherwise you will be falling directly onto the belay.' I leaned to the side so Tat could see the knife blades.

'Two pegs. What's wrong with that?'

'They're tied off. I don't even like putting my weight on them.' I glanced at the drop to the foot of the climb. 'They won't hold a fall.'

Tat shrugged. He didn't seem as concerned as I was. Maybe I'm being a wimp? Perhaps it's not so bad? I reasoned to myself but the bluff didn't work. I knew it was bad. I was climbing well, feeling strong, but doubts were crowding in on me. Trust your judgement. It's your life.

I passed a bandolier with ice screws down to Tat. He swung it around his neck and moved to the left, making a long stride out with his boot to get his crampons onto the ice. A large plate of ice cracked off and tumbled down and over the buttress. I watched it, mesmerised, as it wheeled out into the sucking, empty space beneath my feet.

I tensed and grabbed Tat's shoulder to steady him. He tried the stride again and I watched intently as he made precise, soft placements with his axes, weighted them, and shifted to the left until he could stand directly over his left foot. He made a perfunctory examination of the ice then reached up with his axe. Clearly there was no chance of placing an ice screw.

I shifted uneasily. Tat was tall and probably weighed 175 pounds. There was no way I could hold him without putting heavy force on the belay.

'Gear, Tat,' I said tensely.

'I'll look under that roof,' he said and nodded towards where a small overhang of rock jutted from the rock corner. 'There may be a crack underneath it.'

He lifted himself smoothly up on his right axe and braced the front-points of his right boot against the back of the rock corner. There was a cracking sound and Tat dropped down as the ice disintegrated and his left foot detached again. I gasped with shock and instantly braced for the fall. He stopped moving and calmly replaced the boot slightly higher.

'Jesus, Tat, get some gear in.'

He said nothing.

I felt sick with anxiety. Tat was absorbed in the technical difficulty of climbing while I could only watch and worry and try not to think about the pitons. Any fall would kill us. An edgy hysteria was beginning to flood through me. This is bad. This is really bad. Yet I did nothing. I stared, transfixed by Tat's movements, scarcely daring to breathe, trying to will his axes and crampon points to hold firm.

After what seemed an age I found myself looking directly upwards at the red plastic soles of Tat's Footfang crampons. If he fell he might hit me. The impact would knock me off my frail stance. If he slid past me he would fall 20 feet straight onto my harness and then the belay. It would rip out. The frozen turf would not take the strain and the moment it collapsed I would lunge down onto the tied-off knife blades. Then we would be airborne.

I had immense respect for Tat's ability as an ice climber. Indeed I deferred to him, happy to acknowledge his superior experience, although I would never admit this to him. I felt that I was more powerful and probably fitter than Tat but he had the cunning of vast experience and that was worth a great...

Revue de presse

"Grippingly told...there is no question Simpson is a brilliant adventure writer. There are passages that had my heart racing" (Observer)

"Eloquent, spine-chilling stuff" (SUNDAY TIMES)

"No one conjures the thrill of altitude better than Simpson...A hugely enjoyable book...As far as mountaineering literature goes this is about as good as it gets" (Sara Wheeler, Spectator)

"An engrossing read. Nobody evokes the physical and psychological realities of climbing better...a powerfully written book...as vivid as anything Simpson has yet produced" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Heart-stopping stuff...This is not a book for the fainthearted and perhaps should come with a government health warning...a book that will have your fingers clutching imaginary rocks and palms sweating over every page" (Scotsman)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta) (Peut contenir des commentaires issus du programme Early Reviewer Rewards)

Amazon.com: 4.4 étoiles sur 5 46 commentaires
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Wonderful Story-Teller 9 mai 2016
Par Karen Wingoof - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
There were passages in *The Beckoning Silence* that were exquisite and poetic. Simpson brings us into his inner world, and allows us to share in the feelings and thoughts of a mountaineer nearing the end of his career. By the end of the book I think every reader can understand why Joe Simpson would consider retiring from climbing. My 97 year-old dad (Dee Molenaar, a veteran of several mountaineering expeditions) recently remarked: "I'm glad I did the climbing I did. I'm also glad I don't have to, anymore." I think Joe Simpson would be able to relate to my dad's remark.

There is no doubt that Joe Simpson is a master of his craft - a wonderful writer and story-teller.

But to be honest, *The Beckoning Silence* didn't have the same intensity and urgency that I felt in Simpson's *Into the Void*. It had long passages of dialogue which affected the pacing, and, for me, were distracting. I kept wondering stuff like - how can he remember the exact words from this dialogue? Was he taping it or something? And then, wondering about this, my thoughts would go off on a side trip and I'd start thinking about how weird it sometimes is to be a writer. I can imagine as Simpson was writing this book, that he might have often found himself in the weird position of being his own observer - taking note of how he reacts even as he's reacting.

Although *Touching the Void* is still my favorite Simpson read, I liked this book very much.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Very Entertaining 27 mars 2017
Par Susan Alice Randall - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I have read many climbing works of non-fiction. This one was quite suspenseful and the writer's words were very descriptive and visual. We really couldn't predict which climber would live and which would not. I highly recommend this author to you! Enjoy.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Climbing the Eiger Nordwand 22 juillet 2014
Par Linda H. Goddard - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
A spellbinding book about climbing the Eiger Nordwand, one of the most vertiginous climbing routes in the Alps. The difficulties to be overcome presented by the challenging terrain, ice and rock falls, the unpredictable weather that can blow in a storm at a moment's notice, and the psychological challenges each climber has to face in overcoming his fears, all of these make this book come alive. It provides a look into the close-knit community of mountain climbers. Joe Simpson is obviously an expert who has successfully climbed mountains all over the world, he knows whereof he speaks. Thrilling for real world climbers as well as arm-chair adventurers alike.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Soulful Insight 4 septembre 2016
Par Anne - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Joe Simpson can tell a story. This one starts out a little dry and then he hooks you. He' one of those authors who will one moment make you laugh out loud then make you cry. He bares is soul many times in this book. You understand why he is drawn, yet fearful of the mountains. He is grateful to be able to write about his experiences , his travels and friendships. This mountaineer definitely reveals himself truly!
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Unfortunately the really good accounts of climbing adventures are ruined somewhat by periods ... 20 janvier 2016
Par Margaret - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Unfortunately the really good accounts of climbing adventures are ruined somewhat by periods in the book when he goes on and on about other matters. Often related to the story he's been telling but just over done somewhat. Still worth reading for the good descriptions of some of his climbs and adventurer's tales from the past.
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