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The Bond

 

The Bond

Written by Simon McCartney

ISBN 978-1-910240-66-3

Published by Vertebrate Publishing
Reviewed by Karin Magog

 

Wow what a read. I found this book to be a real page turner, very hard to put down and very gripping in places. The Bond is the story of British mountaineer Simon McCartney, now a very successful businessman who spends much of his time living in Hong Kong, but whom back in the 1970s was an extremely talented and bold mountaineer until an epic climb in Alaska lead him to quit climbing altogether.

The book starts with some early Alpine adventures where Simon was the apprentice to the more experienced Dave Wilkinson. A strong team they made many second ascents as well as a first ascent in the Oberland. His tale of their second ascent of the central pillar of Brouillard on Mont Blanc sets the scene for more epics ahead and was enough to get me hooked. The Bond also covers his eventual winter ascent of The Eiger, an early goal of his but one not without incident.

However, it was Simon's chance encounter with American climber Jack Roberts in the Bar National in Chamonix that would shape his climbing career. Both keen and accomplished climbers they found they were both hungry for a greater challenge. Climbers invariably get on well with other climbers, swapping tales of routes climbed, past adventures and future objectives. However, sometimes you come across another climber you instantly connect with, the same drive and ambitions that can lead to that special climbing partnership. So it was with Simon and Jack as they formulated plans to climb together in Alaska the following summer.

The story of their first ascents of the north face of Mount Huntington then the southwest face of Denali, both in Alaska, make for edge of the seat reading. Their Alpine approach in this sort of territory was cutting edge, their fast and light tactic a testament to their belief in their own ability, their trust in each other and their youthful sense of their own immortality. How they succeeded on these climbs and survived to tell the tale makes compelling reading. No spoilers here, just buy a copy of the book and get reading.

The Bond is well written and is illustrated with numerous black and white and colour photos, the majority taken by Simon and Jack themselves. What really adds to the book though is the extracts from other climbers diaries, especially those written by Jack. He wrote a daily diary and these personal musings form an integral part of the story. Now I’m not a mountaineer, it holds no appeal to me - the danger, the cold, the hardship. However, I have read a few of the classic mountaineering books such as The Shining Mountain and Touching the Void. The Bond is more than worthy of a place on your bookshelf amongst these legends. You don't have to be a mountaineer or even a climber to enjoy this book. The heart of the story is the human side, the obsession and passion that drives people to risk their lives, the selflessness of others in helping those in need and the lifelong bond that can form between two individuals. As Jack himself said “Man, the only, only good thing about that climb, was that you were tied on to the other end of the rope”.

 

Further Reading:

Article on UK Climbing

Simon McCartney talks about his book The Bond on Vimeo.

 

Note
The Bond has been shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature 2016 and the 2016 Banff Mountain Book competition.