Entity Type:
Simpson, Joe (1960-)
Simpson became known to a wide public in 1985 after his amazing escape from apparently certain death on a remote Peruvian mountain. The Sheffield based climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates had accomplished a first ascent of the steep, insecure ice face of Suila Grande, but Simpson fell a short distance on the descent from the mountain, breaking a leg. With no one else to help them, Yates attempted to lower Simpson down the mountain a rope-length at a time, but during a snowstorm the injured climber toppled into a crevasse, forcing Yates to cut the rope lest he be dragged in himself. Assuming his friend had died, Yates managed to solo climb back down to base-camp where he burnt all Simpson’s kit prior to returning home. However, Simpson had landed on a snow-bridge in the crevasse from which, amazingly, he was able to haul himself out, and after many days of agonising crawling over glacier and sharp rocks, he managed to make it to their camp just as a very startled Yates was about to leave. Simpson subsequently wrote a best-selling book about his ordeal, which became a publishing phenomenon. However, Joe had already become well known amongst the climbing cognoscenti prior to this, thanks to a series of miraculous alpine escapes. These included being avalanched over 2000ft, and surviving a night suspended with his partner from a single creaking piton when their bivouac ledge collapsed leaving them swinging over a thousands of feet of space in their sleeping bags until rescued by helicopter. Consequently, Simpson had attracted the nickname of ‘Captain Scarlet’ after the famously indestructible special agent of the children’s TV series. You would have thought that after the Peruvian crevasse incident, Fate might have given Joe a break. Not a bit of it. In 1991, a faulty crampon broke as he was descending a mountain in the Himalaya, pitching him headlong several hundred feet. Once again, he found himself being lowered by his partner down a mountain. Since then Joe has managed to avoid major accidents, but nevertheless likes to talk about them during the course of delivering corporate motivation seminars.
Standout accidents: 1980, Fell 70ft from Glencoe ice-climb, The Screen, (three broken ribs, hairline fracture to fibia, torn trapezoid muscles, dislocated bladder..); 1982, Fastest British descent of Les Courtes, French Alps (by avalanche, 2000ft in two minutes; cuts and bruises, severe concussion…); 1983, stranded on The Bonatti Pillar, Alps, after bivouac ledge collapsed during night (cuts, bruises, shock…), 1985, falls and breaks leg and is accidentally lowered down crevasse on Suila Grande, Peru, presumed dead, crawls down mountain (severely mangled leg & knee, hypothermia, malnutrition…), 1991, Fell on Pachermo, Nepal, (Broken ankle, ruptured nostril, broken cheekbone…)
Further reading: Touching the Void, Joe Simpson, Jonathon Cape, 1988; This Game of Ghosts, Joe Simpson, Jonathon Cape, 1993

Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
Access Points:
Simpson, Joe (1960-)