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.
the so-called War on Terror has shifted from Afghan soil to Pakistani soil, and instead of U.S. and NATO boots on the ground, U.S. special ops and drones prowl the valleys searching for terrorists on kill lists, while Pakistani troops launch major offensives. How does this affect those who are drawn to the mountains to climb, to explore, and to soak in their beauty? Climbers always believe the worst will happen to someone else. That’s how they mentally survive. “That avalanche?” they wonder.
that I would write the closing chapters of this book in the shadow of September 11, and that in his address to the nation after the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, President Bush would name the IMU as one of the principal targets alongside bin Laden in the war in Afghanistan. Indeed, there appears to be a sense of closure to this story with the news in November 2001 of the death of Juma Namangani, the leader of the IMU and a lieutenant of bin Laden, in an American bombing raid. Namangani
the ground troops. Nikolaev’s account to Otorbaeva described an unprepared Kyrgyz army up against well-armed and well-trained “Wahhis,” which was soldier slang for the Wahhabis, or Muslim extremists. “What really shocked me in Batken,” he said, “was the ‘strategy and tactics’ of the military leadership. If the rebel fighters had wanted to shoot us all, they could have done it in about five minutes.” Nikolaev had volunteered for service and was sent with eight hundred young soldiers to Koi-Tash
Karavshy. Here they scour more huts for food, but there is nothing. Half a mile upstream, at 1 A.M., the rebels sit the hostages under a tree fifty feet from the Karavshin River. The river roars here, misting and chilling the climbers. Abdul informs the Americans that he is heading upriver, and that Su will stay put and keep watch over them. Abdul delivers his message using three signs: the Russian word soldat, meaning soldier; the sign of the slit throat; and a mime show of spooning food into
Aviv. To hijack flight 073, four terrorists had infiltrated the airport, probably with inside help, and rushed up the steps of the Boeing 747 shortly before it was due to take off. Armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades, the gunmen demanded the release of three fellow terrorists who were in jail for blowing up an Israeli yacht in Cyprus. They threatened to kill all 350 passengers if their demands went unmet. Soon after taking control of the plane the gunmen shot a passenger and dumped