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Touching the void

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on June 30, 2005

In Reply to: Touching the void posted by Shae on June 29, 2005

: : : What does "touching the void" mean - esp. when related to mountaineering?

: : Well, I couldn't find a meaning. But I am guessing that it means a near-death experience. The "void" meaning whatever is waiting for us. The great unknown.

: : Anyone have the answer to this one?

: My understanding is that it means to achieve the unachievable, experience the impossible. Something along those lines. I think that, in this usage, 'The void' is a vacuum, such as Outer Space, which cannot be touched, but to actually do so surpasses normal human experience.

It's the title of a book by the climber Joe Simpson; the true story of how he fell into a crevasse on a high peak in the Andes and was left for dead by his climbing partner, and his lonely struggle to get out of the crevasse and back to their camp despite being badly injured. The title simply refers to his psychological experiences. It's not a "saying" as such, but virtually every climber knows the book (there has been a film too) and I can imagine saying something like "that was a real Touching-the-Void-type experience". I imagine that Shae has heard it used in this way.

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