Monday, April 28, 2014

A Short Walk to the Edge of Life

Over the weekend I finished reading another compelling story of survival, this one fraught with hard lessons every adventurer should learn. Called A Short Walk to the Edge of Life: How My Simple Adventure Became a Dance with Death and Taught Me What Really Matters, it's the first full length book written by Scott Hubbartt, a retired combat veteran and Air Force Chief Master Sergeant. Hubbartt is also an historian, having earned an M.A. in History, with a post-graduate certificate in Latin American Studies. While in the Air Force he meet his wife, Carolina, who happens to be a native of Peru. This background would eventually lead to Scott's five-day "dance with death".

After retiring from the Air Force in 2004, Mr. Hubbartt was now free to spend more time traveling around the world, especially to Peru where he paid visits to his wife's family. As an historian he became quite interested in learning the fate of an old gold mine that was owned by Carolina's grandfather in the 1930s. The mine was located on the isolated Puna, the high plateau grassland region of the central Andes Mountains of Peru. So, with a bit of wanderlust and adventure, Hubbartt set-off on what he thought would be an 8-hour trek from the small mountain town of Chepen de Salpo. From there he intended to descend through steep canyons to a village called Poroto, where he hoped to find some clues as to the whereabouts of the old gold mine.

However, as you might guess from the title of the book, things didn't go quite as planned. As he laid there on the desert floor - exhausted, hungry and completely dehydrated, on perhaps the final night of life - Hubbartt summed it up fairly succinctly when he stated:
"I knew I had miserably messed up and was a victim of my own undoing. Pride, arrogance, and overconfidence were leading to my demise"
The story, and the trajectory of his life, however, took a sharp turn when the author received a strange vision from his deceased brother. Did this, and another unexplainable physical miracle, actually save his life?

I thought A Short Walk to the Edge of Life was a great read. Hubbartt does a great job of moving the story forward, while keeping you eager to turn the next page. My only complaint with the book was with the maps he published. Just as the author was confused with his compass readings, I was confused with the maps that showed his location each day. I think some basic contour lines with elevation readings, as well as distance figures, would've been very helpful to the reader. But this is just nitpicking, and shouldn't prevent you from reading an otherwise great story.

The book is scheduled to be released next week, but you can pre-order it on Amazon right now. You can click here for more information.

Hiking in the Smokies

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