Over the Edge: The True Story of the Kidnap and Escape of Four Climbers in Central Asia
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
* A different sort of true climbing adventure—this one with terrorists, kidnappings, and AK47s
* New afterword by the author
* First time in paperback
Before dawn on August 12, 2000, four of America’s best young rock climbers—Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden, Jason “Singer” Smith, and John Dickey—were asleep in their portaledges high on the Yellow Wall in the Pamir-Alai mountain range of Kyrgyzstan. At daybreak, they would be kidnapped at gunpoint by fanatical militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which operates out of secret bases in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and is linked to Al Qaeda. The kidnappers, themselves barely out of their teens, intended to use their hostages as human shields and for ransom money as they moved across Kyrgyzstan. They hid the climbers by day and marched them by night through freezing, treacherous mountain terrain, with little food, no clean water, and the constant threat of execution.
The four climbers -- the oldest of them only 25 -- would see a fellow hostage, a Kyrgyz soldier, executed before their eyes. And in a remarkable life-and-death crucible over six terrifying days, they would be forced to choose between saving their own lives and committing an act none of them thought they ever could.
In Over the Edge, the climbers reveal the complete story of their nightmarish ordeal to journalist and climber Greg Child. With riveting details, Child re-creates the entire hour-by-hour drama, from the first ricocheting bullets to the climatic decision that gains them their freedom. Set in a region rife with narcotics and terrorism, this is a compelling story about loyalty and the will to survive. What continues to make it relevant today, 15 years after the events took place, is the geopolitical context -- the incident happened, eerily, on the eve of 9–/11; the fact that at least two of the four climbers continue to be prominent in the sport; and the details incorporated into the story around the media hype and controversy regarding the climbers and their story.
than in 2001, nor do they understand us. The gap between our two worlds is the story of our times. This afterword—written in 2014 as an update for the reissue of this book—comes twelve years after the book’s first publication. Reexamining the issues I wrote about back then has been daunting because the back-story to the settings in Over the Edge concerns a labyrinth of struggles embroiling the Islamic world. I’m no expert on this sprawling tar baby of a subject, so I’ll restrict the scope of
it’s time for the belayer to climb. The leader reduces the severity of any potential fall by inserting nuts and cams into the cracks and clipping the rope into these gadgets with aluminum snap links, called carabiners. Rigging such “protection” every few feet lessens the distance of a fall. Caldwell and Rodden’s aim is to make a free ascent from the bottom to the top, meaning that they’ll climb the wall in a gymnastic style, utilizing the natural features of the rock for their fingers and toes,
young soldiers protesting their treatment outside military headquarters. They were threatened with arrest and dispersed. “I’m not going to war anymore,” he said. “I understand that war is a big political game, where we, the privates, are just cannon fodder.” AFTER THE IMU LEFT Kyrgyzstan they vanished back into Tajikistan and Afghanistan, leaving the Kyrgyz government to take stock of the damage. The war had killed twenty-seven soldiers and a Kyrgyz hostage and had cost the country $3.3
into the hip-deep frigid water. When Abdul sees Smith thigh-deep in the river, he beckons him back, shouting and making gestures to say, “Danger, danger, too fast, too fast.” Smith ignores him. Reaching the end of the log, Smith works like a man possessed, muscling it toward the center of the river where the water is deeper and the current can do the work. Near the opposite side of the Jopaiya his feet slip on polished rocks and he drops into a waist-deep hole in the riverbed. He is pushed
the trip and barely know the climbers involved. Some of them are half my age, and although we share the same sport, we occupy very different generations within it. I have never met Caldwell or Dickey and have only been briefly introduced to Rodden, who struck me as shy. I knew Smith in passing from visits to The North Face and from a few friendly encounters at climbing areas. He impressed me as a witty and capable big-wall climber. A harried PR man takes my call at The North Face. He’s been