To Live by Élisbeth Revol is a powerful book of survival that tells the tale of the ill fated ascent of Nanga Parbat in 2018 by Élisabeth and climbing partner Tomasz Mackiewicz.
Being immediately thrust into the terror of the situation sets this books apart from most mountaineering literature. Expecting to start with a window into the tragedy and then be taken back to their individual life journeys to reach that point – instead Élisabeth focused on that tragic night as they tried to descend the mountain. The only glimpses into her past are set as memories as she slips in an out of consciousness and sleep on her attempt to descend the mountain.
Throughout the narrative is punctured with reflections from the present day as she relives the disaster which provide the reader with an insight into how she has both been able to move on and how the fateful night still haunts her. She also reflects on why she’s driven to climb at high altitude and her achievements which provide an understanding of her motivations and abilities.
Trying to appreciate the difficulty of climbing an 8000m mountain in winter is challenging enough. But to understand the mental strength required to survive for days without food and water, to descend having left some essential kit with Tomasz in the hope it would help him survive and to do so with frostbite fearing no-one is coming to help you – is a strength most people do not have.
To Live is a harrowing read, but one that is gripping throughout and a book I highly recommend.