"}
Outdoors

Starry Night

A startling story of survival

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Nearly three years ago, longtime alpinist Isabel Suppe was lying at the bottom of a mountain in the Bolivian Andes wondering if she was going to die.

She and her climbing partner, Peter Wiesenekker, had fallen more than 1,100 feet, and both of their injuries were potentially life-threatening. Suppe’s right ankle was broken and her tibia and fibula bones were sticking out through her skin. Wiesenekker had similar injuries, as well as trauma to his head, and was unable to move.

What happened next can only be described as miraculous. After spending a night hoping for help to come and trying to stay awake to stave off hypothermia, Suppe realized the next morning that immediate action was required if she wanted to survive. At that point, Wiesenekker was no longer coherent, and Suppe set out not knowing if she’d see him again.

Because she only had one good foot and crawling across the sharp ice formations wasn’t an option, Suppe came up with a process of moving forward by sitting on the ground, lifting her body weight with her arms behind her, moving her torso over the ice toward her feet, then lifting her injured foot with a trekking pole that was looped through her crampon strap and moving it forward a few painstaking inches at a time.

“I didn’t know at all whether I had a realistic chance to make it off the mountain alive,” Suppe says of the ordeal. “At some point I was wondering whether I was simply putting myself through a senseless torture, but then I thought that if I were to die, I wanted those who were to find my body to see that at least I had fought to the last.”

By the time she was rescued the next day, it was too late to save Wiesenekker, who’d succumbed to his injuries after Suppe went for help. And even after doctors initially told her they might have to amputate her foot, she never, ever contemplated quitting climbing.

In the three years since the accident and the many surgeries she’s endured, she’s kept her promise to herself to not give up on the sport she loves. In fact, one year after the accident, she summited, on crutches, a new climbing route, again in the Bolivian Andes. She recently hand-cycled over the Alps and next week—after she speaks July 6 at the Bellingham Public Library about Starry Night, the book she wrote recounting her ordeal and recovery—she’ll be starting a bike trip from Washington to Colorado in order to rebuild the muscles in her legs and promote the English version of her book.

The title of the tome, Suppe notes, depicts much more than the view she contemplated while wondering if she’d make it through the night.

“When I was sitting on the glacier, not knowing whether I was going to live to see the next dawn, I looked up at the starry sky above the Condoriri massif and despite everything—despite the fact that I didn’t know whether I was going to live or die, whether Peter was going to live, and even though my bones were sticking out of my leg—I felt moved by the beauty of the starry sky,” she says. “It simply was too beautiful to die. In hindsight I find it extremely comforting to know that we are able to be moved by beauty, even in the face of death. This capacity is what makes us human.” 

SVCR Don McLean
More Outdoors...
Recreation Roundup
An all-season outdoor expo

As I write these words from my perch on the sixth floor of the Herald Building, it’s early February and our corner of the world is blanketed in approximately six inches of still-accumulating snow. 

Despite the winter weather, Bellinghamsters are still out and about in full force. So far…

more »
Nordic Night
Putting the kick in cross-country

“It’s the perfect way to fly,” my old trail crew buddy Tryg said as he jammed his ski poles into the snow and pushed off into the night.

He was right. Even moving uphill on a pair of heirloom Madshus 210s he glided over the groomers so quickly and with such little apparent effort…

more »
Couples Therapy
The ins and outs of love

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to commemorate Valentine’s Day by gazing at your paramour across a candle-lit table, we’ve compiled a few alternate ways to spend time with your sweeties of choice in the coming days. They all involve going outside for an extended period of time, so…

more »
Events
Today
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Into the Woods

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Up the Down Staircase

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

Ubu Roi

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Wild Things

9:30am|Interurban Trail

Spanish Storytime

10:30am|Lynden Library

Valley Writers

1:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Magnolia Street and Cornwall Avenue

Weird Washington

5:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Friday Night Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Whatcom Humane Society Wine Social

6:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

PhotoLUSH 2017

6:00pm|Lairmont Manor

Friday Night Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Always…Patsy Cline

7:00pm|Conway Muse

And I Remember

7:00pm|Village Books

King John

7:30pm|Philip Tarro Theatre

International Guitar Night

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

James Hunter Six

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Borealis Wind Quintet

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

Cupid's Arrow Final Weekend

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

MBT Rovers Northwood Steak and Crab
Tomorrow
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Up the Down Staircase

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

Ubu Roi

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Into the Woods

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Weird Washington

5:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

PhotoLUSH 2017

6:00pm|Lairmont Manor

Always…Patsy Cline

7:00pm|Conway Muse

King John

7:30pm|Philip Tarro Theatre

Cupid's Arrow Final Weekend

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Snow Play Day and Survival Skills

8:00am|Mt. Baker Ski Area

Children's Literature Conference

9:00am|Performing Arts Center

What's New in Organic Gardening

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Plant Society Ramble

9:30am|Maple Creek Loop

UFO Primer

10:00am|Syre Hall

FiberFest 2017

10:00am|La Conner Middle/High School

Intro to Ancestry

10:00am|Ferndale Library

Winter Trail Run Series

10:00am|BBMX Park

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Smelt Run

10:00am|La Conner Middle School

Kids Can Cook

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Washington Beer Open House

12:00pm|Whatcom and Skagit counties

An all-season outdoor expo

1:00pm

Tax Help

1:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Weird Washington

1:00pm|Lynden Library

Raising Pigs

1:30pm|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Peace Corps Revisited

3:00pm|Lynden Library

Geology Underfoot

3:00pm|Deming Library

Starry Night Chamber Orchestra

3:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Whatcom Writes

4:00pm|Village Books

Wishes for Our Stars Gala

5:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Varsity Vocals

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Comedy Fundraiser

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Boating Center Fundraiser

7:00pm|Elks Club

Light in the Night Gala

7:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Wetzel's World

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library

Bayshore Symphony Winter Concert

7:30pm|Central Lutheran Church

Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Technical College
Sunday
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Into the Woods

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Up the Down Staircase

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

Bayshore Symphony Winter Concert

7:30pm|Central Lutheran Church

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Refugee Talk

2:00pm|Christ the Servant Lutheran Church

Northwest Cancer Summit

2:00pm|Bellingham Golf and Country Club

Sting and Piano Chamber Concert

3:00pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

The Tao of Raven

4:00pm|Village Books

Making time with Oscar

4:30pm

The Irish Rovers

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

see our complete calendar »

MBT Rovers Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Farmer’s Market Bellingham Technical College Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books Trove