Joe's StoryBy an enormous stroke of luck, however, Simpson had survived. He was lying on an ice bridge in the eerie surroundings of the crevasse, with steep drops either side; soft snow had somehow cushioned his fall. Believing that Yates had been pulled off the mountain, Simpson realised the dead weight on the other end of the rope would enable him to get up the rope. He pulled on the rope, expecting it to go tight, and was surprised to find the frayed end. It had clearly been cut.
He should have left me on the ridge. It would have saved so much... I'll die here after all that. Why bother trying?There were only two options. Go down, or die on the bridge. Simpson screwed an ice screw into the wall and lowered himself further into the crevasse.
By another stroke of luck, a thin crust of snow had formed 35 feet below the ice bridge, and Simpson 'let out a cry of delight and relief'. Sunlight was streaming in from high up on one side, at the top of a snow slope, and Simpson could see that he had found an exit. As he crawled towards it, he could feel the snow was very thin - chunks were falling from the ceiling below him, and at any minute the whole thing might give way. He got to the snow slope, and painstakingly made his way up it, inch by inch. Simpson took five hours to cover the 130 feet of slope.
But he did, and finally emerged, exhausted but relieved. His joy at having escaped the crevasse was soon tempered by the realisation that he still had six miles to go to base camp. But he realised he now had a choice:
[Death] wasn't a dark, black terror any more, just fact, like my broken leg and frostbitten fingers, and I couldn't be afraid of things like that. My leg would hurt when I fell, and when I couldn't get up I would die. In a peculiar way it was refreshing to be faced with simple choices.Simpson hopped the 200 feet down to the glacier, slipped on some ice and slid a short distance into a snowdrift. By some coincidence, he was just ten feet from Yates' footprints. He began crawling, with something he describes as the voice in his head taking over and giving him instructions. Dehydrated, frostbitten and exhausted, eventually he grew tired; the voice told him to find a snow hole, and he slept.
The next day, he somehow managed to continue. Random snatches of Shakespeare ran through his brain, almost like a second voice but this one malevolently distracting him. He ate snow to try to stave off the dehydration, and tried walking on his bad leg resulting only in a collapse and despair. The voice brought him back to consciousness; he made his way painstakingly and randomly across the field of crevasses, and there was only the rocky section of lakes and moraines to go.
It wouldn't be possible to crawl over the boulder field, so Simpson was forced to hop, aided by his ice-axe. He was now totally disorientated and becoming delirious. The voice urged him on, he collapsed a number of times, drifted in and out of consciousness and spent another night sleeping in the boulder field. Close to death, he found the most annoying thing was that a particular pop song he despised, Brown Girl In The Ring, by Boney M, kept going around and around in his head. 'My God', he recalls, 'I thought I'm going to die to Boney M'.
Eventually, resting against a boulder, he realised there was an odd smell of faeces around. It was very strong. He sniffed his mittens, and slowly realised he must have crawled through the camp's latrine.
SIIIIMMMmoonnnn...Within minutes, Simpson was beginning his long recovery in the safety of a tent. He had arrived at camp just three hours before Yates and Hawkins had planned to leave.
'I thought I'm going to die to Boney M'