What compels mountain climbers to take the risks that they do? Is it the thrill in the physical accomplishment, in managing to defy the odds, or both -- and why do they continue to do what they do in the face of such great danger? In On the Ridge Between Life and Death, David Roberts confronts these questions head-on as he recounts the exhilarating highs and desperate lows of his climbing career. By the time he was twenty-two, Roberts had already been involved in three fatal mountain climbing accidents and had escaped death himself by the sheerest of luck. And yet, as he acknowledges, few things have brought him more joy than climbing.
In a famous essay on the subject written more than twenty years ago, Roberts judged climbing to be "worth the risk." He continues to climb to this day, and several of his challenging routes in Alaska have never been climbed since. But in reassessing the emotional costs to himself and to loved ones, he reaches a different conclusion, one that is sure to cause controversy not only in climbing circles, but among adventurers of all kinds. Candid and unflinching, On the Ridge Between Life and Death is a compelling examination of the risks we take in order to feel more alive.read more
David Roberts is quickly becoming one of my favorite climber/writers. "On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined" is a memoir, written by Roberts while he was in his 60's and looking back 30-40 years at his climbing expeditions. Roberts is one of those "lucky" climbers who has watched a friend tumble off a mountain and die, but always finishes a climb unscathed. Much of the book deals with the mental turmoil that Roberts suffered and addresses the age-old question about why mountain climbers continue to take the risks and do what they do.Roberts' memoir is unflinchingly honest as he looks back at some of the more painful events of his life and the reasons why after numerous first ascents in Alaska, he has backed away from mountaineering. The book is well written and compelling... featuring lots of little vignettes about other major players in the world of climbing. Very engrossing and interesting read.read more
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More than a few readers will think of John Krakauer's Into Thin Air as they delve into this bracing work. The connection isn't surprising, since Roberts has served as a mentor to Krakauer. Throughout his life, Roberts has been an avid climber as well as a vocal advocate for the sport, writing over 15 books, many of them on mountaineering. This volume finds him looking back at the entirety of his climbing experience. It opens with his recounting the horrific 1961 fall of his high school friend and climbing partner, Gabe Lee. In spite of this tragedy, Roberts continues to climb and slowly becomes what other climbers call a "hard man," an unsentimental mountaineer who can block out tragedy and focus on getting to the top. In appropriately rugged prose, Roberts details his increasingly dangerous ascents as he begins to pioneer new routes on various Alaskan peaks. In one of the best chapters, he tells the story of his team's 1965 climb of Mount Huntington, a "slender triangular pyramid" nine miles southeast of Mount McKinley in Alaska, and their "giddy celebration" upon reaching the top. The feeling doesn't last, though. As they descend, one of the team falls off a narrow precipice with just a "scraping sound, and a spark in the night." This balance of joy and terror is what makes Roberts's book such an exhilarating read and an intense appraisal of a life spent on the edge. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved