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Book – Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow


Cordillera Huayhuash, Siula and Yerupaja and lakeCordillera Huayhuash, Siula and Yerupaja and lake,
Cordillera Huayhuash, Siula and Yerupaja and lake,Jirishanca mountain in high Andes
Jirishanca mountain in high Andes

Panorama – Jirishanca, Yerupaja and Siula mountains
The Dark side of Extreme Adventure – Maria Coffey Losing a friend or loved one is never an easy process, but it becomes even more complex when they leave for a mountain adventure and never return. I first experienced this in the early 70’s when 3 close friends were killed while attempting Mt. Elias in Canada.

Maria Coffey examines how climbers and their families and friends cope with the devastating losses that shadow this sport.She begins with a search for why people climb in the first place, and in particular why they continue after close calls; without becoming banal, she quotes Jim Wickwire, “One of the addictive aspects of climbing is that it allows you to be in the present moment in ways that are impossible in ordinary life“.  Similar thoughts come from Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’ – which finds that the “enjoyment of risk comes not from the danger itself but from managing it, from the sense of exercising control in difficult situations.”

And then, there’s the ultimate mountaineering existential futility of Camus’ Sisyphus facing an “unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing… Each atom of that stone , each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world.  The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart”.The bulk of this powerful book interviews the survivors and comrades of lost climbers.  At times, its difficult to read, but the feelings expressed range from acceptance to anger and denial.  In most cases, there is a community of shared experience and values.  Whether you’re an active climber or arm chair mountaineer this book gives a much needed balance to the hyperbolic tales of expedition climbing
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And for those of us who have lost people to the mountains it offers, not comfort, but a stoic acceptance.Who is the third?