If it is cold in your part of the world, and hiking in sub-freezing temperatures isn’t your favorite activity, why not some wilderness-related reading?
I first read Bob Madgic’s book about a tragedy on Half Dome ten years ago, but it has stuck with me over the years. I remember, as I read it, thinking it was reminiscent of Junger’s The Perfect Storm or Krakauer’s Into the Wild. Like those other two chronicles of disaster, Mr. Madgic’s book works hard not only tell the facts, but to give every kind of context: personal, scientific, geographic, etc. The result is that he meets what I suspect was one of his two goals: to give the careful reader as complete a picture of that day’s events as possible. He also meets what I assume was his second goal: he tells a good story.
At its core, Shattered Air is the story of five hikers who take the cable route Half Dome in July of 1985 to spend the night. What happens next includes a huge thunderstorm with abundant electrical activity, a midnight helicopter rescue, and death. As is often the case with these stories, you will probably find yourself alternating between disgust for some poor decision-making and admiration for the rescuers who put their lives on the line, often to save people from their own gross lapses of judgment.
Winter just might be the perfect time to read this book, especially when you learn how haphazard lightning strikes can be, how the precautions we all learn are far from 100% effective (which is not to say we shouldn’t take them), and even how the idiom “out of the blue” originated. I definitely would not recommend reading it on the trail (for the same reason they probably don’t show James Cameron’s Titanic in the movie theaters on cruise ships).
Good hiking, Ray