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.
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(197mm x 129mm x 19mm)
Arrow Books Ltd
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US Kirkus Review »
Able exploration of mountaineering's personal costs, placed in context among the pleasures of climbing high and hard. Why do people climb? asks Coffey. And why would anyone love someone who repeatedly risks his or her life in the mountains? For the climbers, some suggest that their thirst for the mountains is an addiction; others, like Reinhold Messner, believe that "endurance, fear, suffering cold, and the state between survival and death are such strong experiences that we want them again and again." For those who experience the loss of a loved one while climbing-like Coffey, who wrote about her partner Joe Tasker's death on Everest in Fragile Edge (not reviewed)-it is vital to understand what drives the climber: engagement in the throes of an exciting experience, being in the presence of the divine, the fire of ambition, the chemistry of adrenaline and endorphins. Most climbers are willing to admit the pure selfishness of their enterprise; "no one was putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to do it. And we weren't doing it for the good of anyone else," says American alpinist Mark Twight. Being attracted to such an individual isn't insane, writes Coffey. They often possess an energy that is deeply engaging, but when love sinks in its hooks, the consequences can be hard. Coffey's friend told her that climbers "pursued a passion above their responsibility for and love for their family and that took precedence." It is worse still for those who had no choice, the children and parents of those who died or were gravely injured. The costs for them include a sense of abandonment for the child and "the lingering shadow grief" when the natural order of life is violated for the parent. Even so, Coffey notes of her own case, death jolts some to life. A fair summation of what impels a climber and an equally fair summation of the potentially brutal consequences. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Maria Coffey
Maria Coffey's writing career began in 1989 with the publication of Fragile Edge: A Personal Portrait of Loss on Everest (Chatto & Windus). Since then she has published a further nine books, chronicling her world-wide expeditions and travels with her husband, Dag Goering. Originally from England, she now lives on the West Coast of Canada, where she and Dag run an adventure travel company, Hidden Places. For further information please check Maria's website: www.hiddenplaces.net