Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How I Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro

book cover

That weekend in 2001 we drove over to Parker, the next town east of our home, looking for a single-story floor plan that might suit us better. We thought we had found it but needed to give the matter serious thought before proceeding any further. 

It had been a pleasantly warm day in early May but as we drove back to Highlands Ranch, we could see huge black clouds building up over the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. In the few minutes it took us to get to our house, the wind grew very strong, wildly rocking trees and our heavy barbecue grill scooted across the deck, stopped only by the railings. When we got out of the car, I ran to rescue my potted plants, bringing them into the shelter of the garage. 

Torrential rain began shortly after that, the temperature dropped like a rock and soon it was a blizzard of snow outside our windows. We could only watch in amazement. These kinds of storms are not entirely unusual along Colorado's Front Range, but they are nothing to be ignored or taken for granted. 

Once we had made sure all the windows were closed and had secured the deck furniture together in a corner, we settled into our cozy house for supper and a movie in front of the fireplace. It was one of the rare times that we did not turn on the evening news before heading upstairs to bed. And oddly enough, we did not turn on the local news at breakfast time either, another departure from our norm. We were in blissful ignorance.

While we were snuggly settled out of the storm, friends of ours were trapped underneath some scraggly bushes in the high mountains, caught in the storm with no way to get back to their car. When they did not return from a day hike to the summit of Mount Evans, another family member called search and rescue for help. 

The violence and intensity of the storm at night prevented any rescue attempts, so our friends spent the entire night huddled together in ten-degree weather, wondering if they would survive their nightmare.

Exposed -- Tragedy and Triumph in Mountain Climbing is the gripping account of that story, plus many more adventures they have had since that initial harrowing experience. Admittedly, I might not have picked up the book if I was not personally acquainted with the authors but now I am buying copies to share with others because it is such a good story. 

The author, Brad McQueen is one of the sons of a college friend who stood beside my husband as they were both commissioned into the Air Force as second Lieutenants. His father was also one of the groomsmen in our wedding, and his mother has been an encouraging friend and sister in Christ to me for decades. 

We got to watch Brad grow up but never did know him really well. He struck me as the quiet, studious type. That paid off for him because now he is very well-educated, is successful in the corporate world and as an adjunct college professor. He also made a right turn when he married Melissa, who has made good choices as well in education and career while loving her roles as wife and mother. But right after his love for family is his spirit of adventure and desire to conquer as many mountain summits as he can.

Melissa and Brad
With all that said, why should you read this book?

Climbing mountains is a fascinating hobby. While I never intend to do it myself, I have now vicariously climbed all of the 52 fourteeners (mountains with elevations of 14,000 feet and higher) in Colorado (some several times), as well as Mount Rainier, the Grand Teton, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Cotopaxi in Mexico, and some other attempts that have thus far been not quite as successful (but we aren't done yet!).

I learned while reading Exposed -- Tragedy and Triumph in Mountain Climbing that one should always be prepared for the unexpected when taking a mountain hike and climbing these mountains is always more than just lacing up the shoes and carrying a water bottle in a back pack with protein bars and sun screen.

My hands gripped the book tightly as Brad climbed up snow-covered rocks with fancy equipment like crampons using an ice axe, while pressure breathing and post-holing. (Not to worry, there's a comprehensive glossary at the back of the book to explain these terms) I was terrified as he climbed a knife ridge with sure death awaiting him on either side if he missed a step with either foot.  

There were vastly deep snow crevices to be avoided, sometimes equipment was lost there, never to be retrieved. On the written pages we camped with Brad and his climbing partners in tents precariously perched on the side of a mountain and learned how order is maintained when physical weakness and fear creep in and good mental reasoning begins to slip. We learned, with photographs,  how frostbite stole eight of Melissa's toes and her remarkable comeback. 

Yes, I recommend this book to anybody who wants to take a thrilling and dangerous adventure without leaving the warmth and security of their recliner. Brad has journaled his travels and turned them into a great read that I could hardly put down. 

Check your local bookstore or you can order it from Amazon:

Exposed -- Tragedy and Triumph in Mountain Climbing
by Brad McQueen with Melissa McQueen

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a fascinating book! I will have to send a copy to my nephew who enjoys mountain climbing. His last climb was Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Although the elevation of that mountain is just slightly higher than the altitude we live at, it is the highest elevation on the east coast and has some of the world's wildest weather.

    Your friends experiences on Mt. Evans sounds scary. I will always remember the father and son who lost their lives there a year ago in a freak spring storm in April.