Survival Stories #6: Joe Simpson

August 18, 2009

I'm Cade Courtley, Navy SEAL and host of Spike TV’s Surviving Disaster. I've heard a lot of great survival accounts over the years.  However, these 10 individual narratives represent true self-preservation through instinct, and a never-say-die attitude. This list is a chronicle--a testament--of what I find most impressive in defining true individual strength and human perseverance.  These few did not just lead to legend, but more importantly and most basic, survival.

Joe Simpson is an English mountaineer whose harrowing tale of his “successful yet disastrous” attempt to climb Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andres was later made famous by the book (and subsequent movie) Touching the Void.

During the climb, Joe and his climbing partner Simon Yates encountered some unexpectedly difficult terrain, and Joe fell and broke his leg. Yates attempted a one-man rescue effort, bringing Joe back down the mountain on his own as a blizzard began to build up around them. During the descent, a bad turn of events left Joe hanging over the edge of an ice cliff, with Yates keeping him suspended. After an hour struggle, Yates decided the only thing he could do was literally cut the cord and save his own hide, sending Simpson into crevasse below. As he continued down the mountain, Yates passed the area where Joe had landed, saw nothing, assumed he was dead, and continued down the mountain.

He wasn’t. Despite his serious injuries, Joe managed to crawl out of the crevasse, and for the next three and a half days, continued to descend the mountain and cross a glacier with no safety harness or rope assistance whatsoever, finally arriving back at base camp just a few hours before Simon Yates and another traveler were about to leave. Despite his struggle to survive, he likely had enough energy left to give Yates a piece of his mind.

Stay tuned to as I’ll be unveiling the top 10 most inspiring survival stories one-by-one over the following weeks.



Want more? Check out Survival Story #7: Black Hawk Down/The Battle of Mogadishu


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