On the Ridge Between Life and Death


When surveying the vast (and surprisingly robust) literature devoted to mountaineering, there is very little that answers the question ”Why?” Beyond the laconic tautology of George Mallory’s famous ”Because it’s there,” few words have been devoted to examining the strange compunction that drives otherwise sane men and women to confront a grim catalog of death and injury by clinging to the side of a mountain. In a remarkable reexamination of more than 40 years of groundbreaking ascents in On the Ridge Between Life and Death, David Roberts reflects on the lives lost — returning to the three fatal climbing accidents he witnessed before he was 22 — and offers a brutally candid assessment of an avocation that has given him his ”most piercing moments of joy.” His is a fine achievement in adventure writing: Looming over the sweaty-palms-inducing accounts of high-altitude élan is the sober tone of someone who understands all too well the bitter cost of an often deadly pursuit.

On the Ridge Between Life and Death
  • Book