Joe Simpson (mountaineer)

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Joe Simpson, 2013

Joe Simpson (born 1960) is an English mountaineer, author and motivational speaker. While climbing in Peru in 1985, he suffered severe injuries and was thought lost after falling into a crevasse, but he survived and managed to crawl back to his base camp. He described the ordeal in his book Touching the Void, which was adapted into a film in 2003.

Childhood life[edit]

Simpson was born on 9 August 1960[1] in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,[2] where his father was stationed with the British Army. From the age of 8, Simpson travelled between schools in Britain and various countries where his father was stationed.[3] Simpson began rock climbing after being introduced to the sport by a teacher at Ampleforth College.[4] He was 14 when he read The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer about the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger by Harrer with Anderl Heckmair, Fritz Kasparek, and Ludwig Vörg in 1938. Despite the inherent dangers of mountaineering described in the book, this reading sparked a passion for the mountains in the young man.

Climbing career[edit]

In 1985, Simpson and climbing partner Simon Yates made a first-ascent of the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande (6,344m) in the Cordillera Huayhuash in the Peruvian Andes. On the descent, Simpson broke his right leg and during the subsequent self-rescue in a storm, the two became separated. The climb was nearly fatal for both climbers and, upon returning to Britain, a misleading article in a national newspaper led to Yates being criticised for cutting a rope keeping himself and Simpson together.[5] Simpson published an article in the climbing press shortly afterwards,[6] and later wrote Touching the Void. A documentary also called "Touching the Void" was based on the book.

Simpson underwent six surgical operations as a result of the leg injuries sustained on Siula Grande. The doctors told him he would never climb again and that he would have trouble walking for the rest of his life. After two years of rehabilitation, however, he returned to mountain climbing.

A bad fall broke his left ankle while climbing with Mal Duff in 1991 on Pachermo in Nepal, and is described in Simpson's third book This Game of Ghosts.

He made six unsuccessful attempts on the North Face of Eiger from 2000 to 2003 with his regular climbing partner Ray Delaney, all aborted by bad weather.[7]

His later non-fiction books describe other expeditions and his changing feeling towards extreme mountaineering brought on by the many deaths that surround the pursuit. One of his books, The Beckoning Silence, was made into a documentary shown on Channel 4 in October 2007.[8] The book won the 2003 National Outdoor Book Award (Outdoor Literature category).

Simpson has begun another career as a motivational speaker, addressing corporate events throughout the world.

His best-selling book about the Siula Grande ordeal, Touching the Void, has been translated into 23 languages and has sold almost two million copies worldwide.[9]

Simpson's most recent book is the novel The Sound of Gravity.

Simpson is one of the six people mentioned in the song "Ali in the Jungle" ("Like Simpson on the mountain"), by The Hours as an example of someone who overcame hardship and beat the odds to make a comeback.


Except as noted, all works are non-fiction.

  • Touching the Void (Jonathan Cape) 1988
  • The Water People (fiction) (Jonathan Cape) 1992
  • This Game of Ghosts (Jonathan Cape) 1993
  • Storms of Silence (Jonathan Cape) 1996
  • Dark Shadows Falling (Jonathan Cape) 1996
  • The Beckoning Silence (Jonathan Cape) 2001
  • The Sound of Gravity (fiction) (Jonathan Cape) 2011
  • Walking the Wrong Side of the Grass (fiction) ( 2018 O

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Desert Island Discs - Castaway : Joe Simpson". BBC. 2004-09-19. Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  3. ^ This Game of Ghosts, p. 27.
  4. ^ Joe Simpson Archived 2014-03-19 at the Wayback Machine Times Educational Supplement, 27 May 2005. Accessed 18 March 2012.
  5. ^ Simon Yates Archived 2015-09-08 at the Wayback Machine Geographical, March 2006. Accessed 18 March 2012.
  6. ^ "Out on a limb" High, Issue 35, October 1985.
  7. ^ Simpson, Joe (22 October 2007). "Joe Simpson: My Journey Back into the Void". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  8. ^ "Joe Simpson: My journey back into the void". London: The Daily Telegraph. 22 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  9. ^ Escaping the Void Archived 2015-09-08 at the Wayback Machine Trail, January 2012.

External links[edit]