THE BREACH: Kilimanjaro and the Conquest of Self by Rob Taylor

THE BREACH: Kilimanjaro and the Conquest of Self

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Injury and insight on an ill-fated two-man 1978 expedition to Kilimanjaro's (then) unclimbed Breach Wall--""a vast precipitous sweep of volcanic rock, laced by glistening tongues of ice, festooned with immense dangling icicles like giant Swords of Damocles."" They seemed at first like a good team: Taylor, a world-class ice climber (sometimes partnered with Chouinard), and ""Harley Warner,"" rock-climber extraordinaire. But the clash of personalities (Taylor--laid-back; Warner--hyper) began early, with the pair's warm-up (!) climb of Mt. Kenya's Diamond Couloir; and it continued through the political red tape (Kenya to Tanzania via Ethiopia) and long approach march. At the top of the Window Buttress on Kill, the super-eager Warner goaded Taylor into leading the way up a rotting, 300-foot vertical icicle in the midday tropical sun: ""You used to be a great ice climber, but you've lost your nerve."" Taylor took a fall (he says Warner didn't belay him properly, Warner claims an ice-screw pulled) and broke an ankle--very serious business for an unsupported team at 18,000 feet. Taylor very nearly died, spending three days alone on the mountain awaiting help (Warner descended, got word to the rangers, but then split for the States rather than joining the rescue); then he endured the misery--graphically described--of being carried off the mountain, capped by a chilling stay in an African ""hospital."" The climb may have been ""a disaster in human relationships,"" but Taylor finds more gained than lost: his solo vigil on the mountain, ""beyond human controls. . . no options,"" becomes a religious experience and he attains a sense of peace in the face of death. Essentially for a mountaineering audience, and likely to be controversial in the climbing community--where the name ""Warner"" will be recognized, moreover, as a pseudonym.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1981
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan