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Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow: The Personal Costs of Climbing (2003)

por Maria Coffey

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1204175,480 (4.02)1
Without risk, say mountaineers, there would be none of the self-knowledge that comes from pushing life to its extremes. For them, perhaps, it is worth the cost. But when tragedy strikes, what happens to the people left behind? Why would anyone choose to invest in a future with a high-altitude risk-taker? What is life like in the shadow of the mountain? Such questions have long been taboo in the world of mountaineering. Now, the spouses, parents and children of internationally renowned climbers finally break their silence, speaking out about the dark side of adventure. Maria Coffey confronted one of the harshest realities of mountaineering when her partner Joe Tasker disappeared on the Northeast Ridge of Everest in 1982. InWhere the Mountain Casts Its Shadow, Coffey offers an intimate portrait of adventure and the conflicting beauty, passion, and devastation of this alluring obsession. Through interviews with the world's top climbers, or their widows and families-Jim Wickwire, Conrad Anker, Lynn Hill, Joe Simpson, Chris Bonington, Ed Viesturs, Anatoli Boukreev, Alex Lowe, and many others-she explores what compels men and women to give their lives to the high mountains. She asks why, despite the countless tragedies, the world continues to laudtheir exploits. With an insider's understanding, Coffey reveals the consequences of loving people who pursue such risk-the exhilarating highs and inevitable lows, the stress of long separations, the constant threat of bereavement, and the lives shattered in the wake of climbing accidents. Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow is a powerful, affecting and important book that exposes the far reaching personal costs of extreme adventure.… (mais)
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Without risk, say mountaineers, there would be none of the self-knowledge that comes from pushing life to its extremes. For them, perhaps, it is worth the cost. But when tragedy strikes, what happens to the people left behind? Why would anyone choose to invest in a future with a high-altitude risk-taker? What is life like in the shadow of the mountain? Such questions have long been taboo in the world of mountaineering. Now, the spouses, parents and children of internationally renowned climbers finally break their silence, speaking out about the dark side of adventure.

Maria Coffey confronted one of the harshest realities of mountaineering when her partner Joe Tasker disappeared on the Northeast Ridge of Everest in 1982. In Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow, Coffey offers an intimate portrait of adventure and the conflicting beauty, passion, and devastation of this alluring obsession. Through interviews with the world's top climbers, or their widows and families-Jim Wickwire, Conrad Anker, Lynn Hill, Joe Simpson, Chris Bonington, Ed Viesturs, Anatoli Boukreev, Alex Lowe, and many others-she explores what compels men and women to give their lives to the high mountains. She asks why, despite the countless tragedies, the world continues to laud their exploits. With an insider's understanding, Coffey reveals the consequences of loving people who pursue such risk-the exhilarating highs and inevitable lows, the stress of long separations, the constant threat of bereavement, and the lives shattered in the wake of climbing accidents.

Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow is a powerful, affecting and important book that exposes the far reaching personal costs of extreme adventure.

My Review: The book was very interesting. Sad. Many of the climbers seem selfish, addicts who choose risking their lives for notoriety over their families.

The bad thing about this book is that it is very, very redundant. The theme of the pursuit of climbing the highest peaks and the stress it puts on the families of the climbers is the book premise but at times I felt like Coffey just repeated herself over and over again. I skipped a chapter or two because I felt like I had just read that part in the previous chapter. How many times do we have to read about the same climber's death and the toll it took on his family?

If you're into adventure books or mountain climbing maybe this would be a good read, but I found it a bit boring at times, a lot sad, but interesting nonetheless. ( )
  wendithegray | May 1, 2017 |
Maria Coffey's deceptively simple style works perfectly in this book allowing the reader insight into the deeply personal and often profound emotions experienced by the families of High Altitude climbers. She perfectly encapsulates the obsessions of the mountaineer, yearning for the mountains from home and yearning for home in the mountains. The dilemma facing their loved one, do they try and stop the climbing and change the person they love forever, or do they live with the fears and let them climb. Coffey, whose boyfriend, Joe Tasker, disappeared on Everest, sensitively explores her own grief and that of others who have lost loved ones, or part of themselves in the mountains.. But she also tries to get to the heart of what drives these men and women to leave hearth and home to risk frostbite, mountain sickness and possible death. This is a superb companion book to the testosterone filled climbing canon. ( )
  riverwillow | Mar 8, 2010 |
Disarming, disillusioning and distressing. Where The Mountain Casts Its Shadow is all of these and more. It is a saga of human endurance, of the complicated dynamics of our relationships and of the embers that are left simmering long after the fire is gone.

Maria Coffey's simple yet stark style of writing disarms one upfront and makes one plunge into the lives of the families of High Altitude Mountaineers. One sees them torn between two loves - their's for the mountaineers, and the mountaineer's for the mountains. The mountains are jealous lovers, yet the mountaineers go back to them leaving everything behind and the ones who love them are left waiting...sometimes forever.

This side of the story of the celebrities of mountaineering is disillusioning - the stardom comes with a price, only the price is paid by the families. And the distressing part is to see the families and friends caught between the two loves with nowhere to go.

Yet, the book somehow does not make extreme sports repulsive...somewhere it only exposes and hence eases the acceptance of the choice made by our loved ones. Helen Keller had said, "If you keep your eyes to the sun, you won't see the shadow". This book turns your attention towards the shadows - the reality of brightness. And the hard truth is, for someone looking at the far away sun, it is only the shadow that is closer. Highly recommended reading. ( )
  anaconda1910 | Jan 12, 2008 |
This book asks all the right questions.

A terrific successor to Fragile Edge by the same author. That book was a personal journey - a quest for answers - followed by the author after the death of her famous mountain climber boyfriend on the slopes of Everest.
This book looks at the effect of following this most dangerous of passions on the partners left behind and some who sometimes accompany their loved ones. Even more interestingly, Maria Coffey looks at the point of views of those who have no choice in their relationships with those whose addiction seems as self-serving and as inevitable as any other addiction - parents and children.

I really liked Coffey's earlier book, and I recommend this one as much. I believe she has matured as a writer as well. She has the knack of addressing very large picture issues yet not losing sight of the personal and `small moments'.

Some of the personal testimonies about coming to terms with loss and dealing with grief are true not only for losses under such circumstances, but there are some universal truths particularly for anyone who has had to deal with death and the "loss of a future", rather than a mere celebration of a life fulfilled (as many older person funerals have become in my culture in recent years).

An understated but important subtext for me is what this has to say about gender relations. It is no accident that most of those off risking their lives, and the fur=tures of those around them are male. Ms Coffey does touch on this, and especially the unusual circumstance of women with children who still pursue the apex of whatever mass of rock and ice they have their heart set on. However, she never table thumps an agenda . . . you are lft to ponder your own conclusions.

A remarkable achievement.That Ms Coffey has the confidence of so many associated with the pursuit is a testament to her insight and empathy.

I rate this alongside Ed Douglas's book "Chomolungma Sings The Blues" as my favourite books discussing ethical and spititual concerns about mountaineering. ( )
2 vote saliero | Jun 24, 2007 |
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Without risk, say mountaineers, there would be none of the self-knowledge that comes from pushing life to its extremes. For them, perhaps, it is worth the cost. But when tragedy strikes, what happens to the people left behind? Why would anyone choose to invest in a future with a high-altitude risk-taker? What is life like in the shadow of the mountain? Such questions have long been taboo in the world of mountaineering. Now, the spouses, parents and children of internationally renowned climbers finally break their silence, speaking out about the dark side of adventure. Maria Coffey confronted one of the harshest realities of mountaineering when her partner Joe Tasker disappeared on the Northeast Ridge of Everest in 1982. InWhere the Mountain Casts Its Shadow, Coffey offers an intimate portrait of adventure and the conflicting beauty, passion, and devastation of this alluring obsession. Through interviews with the world's top climbers, or their widows and families-Jim Wickwire, Conrad Anker, Lynn Hill, Joe Simpson, Chris Bonington, Ed Viesturs, Anatoli Boukreev, Alex Lowe, and many others-she explores what compels men and women to give their lives to the high mountains. She asks why, despite the countless tragedies, the world continues to laudtheir exploits. With an insider's understanding, Coffey reveals the consequences of loving people who pursue such risk-the exhilarating highs and inevitable lows, the stress of long separations, the constant threat of bereavement, and the lives shattered in the wake of climbing accidents. Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow is a powerful, affecting and important book that exposes the far reaching personal costs of extreme adventure.

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