The compelling account of recklessness, tragedy, courage and rescue, a book whose sobering depiction of Nature's danger is tempered by unforgettable portraits of the triumphant human spirit.
Madgic claims that "in the annals of hiking tragedies caused by lightning," an ill-fated climb up Yosemite's famed Half Dome mountain by five experienced hikers in 1985 was "one of the most calamitous... of all time." Two of the hikers were killed and three sustained life-altering injuries after they decided to ignore signs of an oncoming thunderstorm and continued climbing a mountain whose peak had been struck by lightning during every month of that year. Madgic, a writer on the outdoors and a Half Dome climbing vet, delivers a well-written and thoroughly investigated account, but his real subject is less the hikers and more the "raw, fearsome power" of lightning. While he provides in-depth profiles of each hiker and their shared enthusiasm for risk taking as a way of conquering "personal fear," he makes it clear from the start that none of them "really knew the capacities, behaviors and dangers of thunderstorms." Madgic provides a fascinating if somewhat stomach-churning account of how the walls of a cave the hikers took refuge in conducted the electrical charge that devastated them, and his contribution to the adventure category is at once a terrifying story and an urgent cautionary tale. Photos.