Top Reads #7 Fragile Earth
Fragile Edge By Maria Coffey
I never met the legendary British mountaineer Joe Tasker to talk to but, in my very early years of climbing, I did once see him giving a lecture. It was in Manchester and I was taken there by my Dad. I remember listening, spellbound, as he described his ascent of Mount Kongur with Peter Boardman, Alan Rouse and Chris Bonington. Their ascent had been an epic struggle against challenging terrain, desperate snow and horrific weather. I remember Joe being a really good speaker who brought their story to life. It was the ideal inspiration for a new climber and I lapped it up.
I found out more about him in his book, Savage Arena. He was passionate and driven and his book is a riveting read. Infact, he is, in my opinion, right up there with the very best of mountaineering writers. Unfortunately, it was the last book he would ever write because, just the day after sending it to his publishers, he left on the 1982 Everest Expedtion where he lost his life.
Joe's book should be on every mountaineers must read list but this top read recommendation isn't actually about his book. There are many great books written by cutting edge mountaineers and it is also fair to say there are many great books written by mountaineers that are no longer alive. What is less common is to find a great book about a mountaineer written by their partner.
At the time of Joe's death he was in a relationship with Maria Coffey, and Maria did just that. Her book, Fragile Edge, chronicles their life together and it is a fascinating, sometimes harrowing, but always engrossing account of their life together and, ultimately, her life for some time after his death.
Maria is an excellent writer, her story is an endearing account of love and loss and the man she writes about was one of the mountaineering greats. Fragile Edge definitely deserves to be a Peak Mountaineering Top Read.