There are more insane true stories of mountain climbers out there than you can count. Unfortunately, more than a couple of these stories end with climbers losing their lives doing what they love. Everest, K2, Nanga Parbat, and many more of the world's tallest peaks are the settings for some of the most insane mountain climbing stories you'll ever hear.
Mountain climbing injuries of all kinds are incredibly frequent and you'll be amazed at some of the incredible things that these climbers have lived through. Of course, for every crazy mountain climbing story with a happy ending, there's another with a considerably less happy ending.
Perhaps the saddest parts of this list aren't the stories about death, but what happened after the stories about survival and heroism. Too many of the great men and women on this list went on to die at young ages - some from illness or circumstances unrelated to climbing, but most as a result of future mountain climbing accidents. From Hermann Buhl to Anatoli Boukreev, many of these climbers could only avoid death so many times.
Fortunately, not all of these mountain climbing tales end in tragedy. Some of these men and women lived well into old age and others are still alive today. For some, it was the birth of their children that convinced them to come down the mountain; for others, they merely survived time and time again until they had had enough. No matter how these stories end, they all help to paint the picture of just what it means to be a mountain climber.
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Joe Simpson Crawled for Five Miles
The story of Joe Simpson is one of the most well-known in the climbing world. While descending from the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, Simpson fell 150 feet into a crevasse. Amazingly he survived, but was badly injured and with nowhere to go, Simpson rappelled further down in what he calls “a form of suicide." However, instead of dying, he found a way out. He then crawled a distance of five miles over three days, to get back to base camp.
After successfully ascending and descending Everest, Antatoli Boukreev heard that another party that had gone up after him and gotten stuck in a storm. Instead of hoping they were okay, he climbed part of the way back up the mountain to save whoever he could find. While eight people died on Everest that night, Boukreev managed to find and save three others, even though it was almost negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with near zero visibility.
Unlike most of these crazy climbing stories, Aron Ralston's didn't happen at the top of one of the world's tallest mountains. If you've seen the movie, 127 Hours, then you are no doubt familiar with this story. Ralston became pinned between a boulder and a wall in a slot canyon in Utah. After five days, he amputated his own arm and was eventually rescued. Ralston obviously has a good sense of humor, as evidence by the title of his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
The Belay is a legendary event in mountain climbing history. It occurred on K2 in 1953, when Pete Schoening single-handedly saved six other climbers from certain death - literally. He did it all with pretty much just one hand. The six climbers where falling down the mountain when Schoening miraculously stopped all of their weight and momentum by himself. He stuck his axe in the ice and held on as tightly as he could until all six men recovered and were able to continue.