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Publisher's Summary

At 8:00 a.m. on May 29, 1999, Cathy O'Dowd, a 30-year-old mountaineer from South Africa, stepped onto the summit of Everest and into history. She had become the first woman to climb the highest mountain in the world from both its south (Edmund Hillary) and north (George Mallory) sides. To achieve this, Cathy has had to face the ultimate risks of Everest.

During her first ascent from the south in 1996, she and her team were trapped in the killer storm described in Jon Krakauer's best seller Into Thin Air. They finally reached the summit, only to have the thrill of success snatched away when a team member disappeared on the descent. In 1998, Cathy, attempting the north side of Everest, stopped only a few hundred meters from the summit to try and help a dying American climber. The woman's first words were "don't leave me". Yet Cathy eventually had to leave her to save her own life.

Now Cathy has captured the drama of her Everest climbs, her passion for the challenge of climbing mountains, and her love for wild places in this story of her four attempts on the mountain. Cathy tries to answer the question of why, if climbing Everest can be so dangerous, people still want to do it.

This is a book of challenge, adventure, love, and life and death. This is about Everest, the world's highest mountain, climbed "just for the love of it".

©1999 Cathy O'Dowd (P)2015 Crux Publishing

What listeners say about Just for the Love of It

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Strong story, even better storytelling

O'Dowd's writing generally has an effective balance of technical information about mountaineering and more personal observations about her ambitions and relationships - both of which Zimmerman brings to life with her narration. If I had been reading this book, I might have gotten bogged down in the technical details of the climb that I couldn't see, but Zimmerman's energy and pace make it a fascinating story to listen to. It's exactly what I like in an audiobook - getting to enjoy a story I would have otherwise missed!

2 people found this helpful

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If you love adventure books, you will love it

What did you love best about Just for the Love of It?

I liked Cathy O'Dowd's honesty about her perceptions, even when she was grumpy or angry, she was honest about it. I've never mountain climbed but I can imagine it's not all sunshine and roses, there are many challenges and it would take a toll. I very much enjoyed hearing a woman's story. I love books about Everest and K-2 but so few are written by women. She also tells her perception from a completely different vantage point about the 1996 Everest disaster. I've been fascinated by these events and based upon the extreme conditions and effect on one's cognitive abilities, what really happened remains a mystery. For those of us who have never climbed a mountain, it's truly hard to envision the conditions and how someone can be healthy and energetic at the peak and die a short time later. She does a good job of telling what she knows about this and helping the listener to understand the extreme conditions. It was exciting and I loved listening on my long runs or commute to work.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I love that the author was a woman, there are not many extreme adventure books written by women and it offers a completely different perspective.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The moment that I knew she was going to lose someone in her group and what she was going through.

Any additional comments?

If you love books about extreme mountain climbing, this is a good one. Not only does she talk about the 1996 Everest disaster but that is only a small part of the book. She goes on to talk about other climbs, both successful and unsuccessful where they had to turn back.

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A truly fascinating and enjoyable listen

Would you listen to Just for the Love of It again? Why?

No but only because I loved every second of it the first time and listened intently.

What other book might you compare Just for the Love of It to and why?

Into Thin Air but less sensationalistic

What does Stevie Zimmerman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Her tone of straightforward description but also her subtle changes of character for different people really brought it to life.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Spoiler alert! At one point Cathy meets someone who is dying on the mountain. Even though it is obvious the woman won't survive, Cathy decides to leave her own ambitions to climb Everest again. There is no ego involved. She just does a human thing.

Any additional comments?

This is a fascinating account by a woman who pulls no punches about her experiences and the people she encountered along the way. And it is brought very fully to life by the narrator. I bought this because I have enjoyed the narrator in other books, but completely different books, and I'm glad I did.

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Don't Bother

As an avid reader of most anything written about Mt. Everest I was looking for something more engaging about the 1996 season in particular. I found inconsistencies in this story based upon reading many other accounts of the tragedy in 1996. The narration was very bland and on a few occasions I was tempted to request an exchange with Audible but in the end I didn't bother.

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Can't put it down!

Cathy O'Dowd, a South African Mountaineer, opens this book with how she got into high altitude climbing and her first Everest expedition which took place in the notorious 1996 climbing season, the deadliest on record. The first section of this book is downright addictive. It's the kind of book that makes you want to go take a walk or a long drive just to listen to it. O'Dowd wrote great descriptions of climbing and surviving in high altitude. She also wrote candidly of the personal dynamics that occur on a large expedition and the tough moral issues every climber must face. She had a clear voice and an incredible story to tell: attempting to climb all three of Everest's faces, wow! This is a great read, makes me want to climb a mountain! If you love stories about big mountain climbing don't miss this one.

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Loved it!

O'Dowd is an entertaining storyteller. She does a great job of weaving life anecdotes with detailed accounts of the treks. I enjoy her poetic descriptions. The narration is pleasant and fits well. I thought the narrator could be O'Dowd herself. About to listen for a second time!

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Great achievements, good story, questionable facts

Let me preface this by saying that no one told or paid me to write this review and that usually do not write reviews, regardless of whether I like a book or not. In this case, though, I think listeners should be made aware that they are listening to what, in my view, is a pretty one-side and self-serving account when it comes to the events of 1996.

The "standard account" on the 1996 disaster obviously is Krakauers "Into Thin Air" - and indeed O'Dowd seems to feel the need to go up against Krakauer various times (even though she basically played no role in the actual disaster or the rescue attempts and overall is a very peripheral figure). Contrary to O'Dowd, Krakauer found himself smack in the middle of the catastrophe when it happened and hence he produces a detailed first-hand account. He doesn't take a particular side or team but criticizes people from many teams and organizations, including his own team, his own team leader and himself (even though he doesn't bear any formal responsibility as he wasn't a guide, didn't cause anyones death and, as is corroborated from other participants, did his utmost to help other mountaineers). By no means, however, does he simply critizise "everyone" as O'Dowd pretends, and his book is clearly informed not only by first-hand experience of the events but by thorough research in the aftermath as well. Anyone who has read the book and took the time to get familiar with the basic facts of the matter will see that, on the whole, Krakauer offers a thoughtful and pretty even-handed report. He may not necessarily get every detail 100% correct, which is probably impossible under the circumstances anyway, but he certainly tries and he actually is in a position to give a meaningful account. One can debate his issues with, for instance, Boukreev all day long but, in the end, Krakauer has no dog in this fight, aside from trying to understand what happened and why it did. Writing a bestseller about doesn't take away from that - it just means a good writer happened to be on the mountain that day.

O'Dowd on the other isn't exactly big on the details, which isn't surprising since she simply wasn't really "part of the action", as her own book clearly shows. Basically all she does is deflecting (actual or perceived) criticism on the South African expedition and particularly on Ian Woodall. This also is rather unsurprising, as, during the disaster, she became romantically involved with Woodall, then afterwards started a business with him and the two ultimately married. Most of the overwhelming evidence from multiple sources on Woodalls disagreeable personality, shady methods and numerous untruths (pretending to have commanded a British military unit that never existed, for once) simply isn't discussed. Almost everything she has to say about him concerns her personal feelings, first as an expedition applicant, then as a participant, ultimately as a lover. Similarly, she blames the obvious chaos reigning within the South African expedition not on Woodall (who, after all, was the expedition leader), but on an array of peripheral people, from a crazy doctor to an imperious newspaper publisher to a racist journalist. At no point does she acknowledge that it would have been Woodalls responsibility to deal with these people/issues and that he simply failed to do so. In fact, listening to her account largely corroborates the picture that Krakauer and others paint when it comes to the South African expedition: organized for lofty political aims (laudable as they may be), led by a shadowy figure, characterized by a lack of leadership and willingness to cooperate with other teams and a surplus of arguments and chaos. Inexplicably, O'Dowd not only feels the need to defend a very questionable man and his very questionable behavior but even to lash out randomly against further people, for instance condescendingly referring to client Doug Hansen as a "postman" (as if his profession was of any consequence and, of course, forgetful of the fact that he had been higher on the mountain the previous year than she had ever been in her life until that point, on any mountain) and repeatedly emphasizing that there was no "professional" rescue mission during the catastrophe (as if there was a rescue team on standby that could have simply been flown in during a blizzard to the upper slopes of Mt. Everest). Of course, even though many of the people fighting for their life or risking their life trying to save others were (much) more experienced than anyone on the South African team at the time, she very much tries to give the impression that this disaster was the result of a bunch of hopeless amateurs getting caught up in a storm and that there not only was nothing for her team to do about it, but that it simply wasn't their responsibility in the first place. All of this is not exactly in the spirit of mountaineering. But it is in the spirit of someone who has a romantic relationship and a business to protect. Listeners should keep that in mind.

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Fascinating

I'm glad I picked this up despite the mixed reviews. I became very interested by Cathy O'Dowd after listening to Sandy Allan's book about climbing the Mazeno Ridge. It was great to hear about her early start climbing, her doubts in herself, and how she went on to overcome those challenges. I loved reading a woman mountaineer's perspective on mountaineering. They're sadly underrepresented in terms of physical books, much less audio books.

I've seen some reviews critical of Cathy's discussion of her relationship with Ian. Honestly that's vastly overblown. There wasn't any more talk about it than you might find in any mountaineering story where they reflect on family back home. The focus of the book is mostly on the climbs, the mountains, and the challenges.

The narrator was clear and easy to understand. I feel like a little more research could have gone into pronunciations, but that's overall a minor and common issue with this sort of book.

It was a very enjoyable read with great reflections. I'll probably listen to this again.

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Great descriptions of the magical world

This is a very human story, and at the same time describes beautifully the magic of climbing high in wild places, and especially well the night !!

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Disappointed

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

The writing was disappointing and it got in the way of what should have been a great and interesting story. Almost every other sentence started with "However" though towards the end she mixed it up with "nevertheless". I was left wondering if the book had an editor.

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  • P Lee
  • 03-04-19

Surprisingly good

I really didn’t want to like this book after all I had read about Cathy in other books, but it was really good to get her perspective on events that happened on Everest. Good to read alongside Everest 96 and into thin air. I really enjoyed the book.

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  • mrs jlh milborrow
  • 01-14-19

Gripping. Enjoyed the writing and the narration

Enjoyed audio book this very much. Well written gave a fascinating insight into mountaineering and good narration.

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  • "moony85"
  • 01-11-19

Breath of fresh mountain air

Everybody who loves mountain and adventure books should listen to this one. I adore Cathy's optimism and matter-of-fact writing. Her climbing accomplishments leave me in awe. Also, it's nice to hear about climbing Everest from a non-Krakauer, not everything-is-terrible perspective.

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  • andrew bateson
  • 01-06-19

Great story well written

not long enough finished to quickly . painted a wonderful adventure. Will listen again soon

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  • John McCluskey
  • 09-03-18

Another perspective

Not the worst book I’ve listed to but I don’t think it went deep enough to make me care for the character or be more inclined to believe her perspective on several events. These mountain climbers intrigue me and I can only only admire their achievements to scale the highest peaks. Without giving the plot away it gives a perspective in the 1996 Everest tragedy I had only got from the other books which were not so flattering about Cathy’s partner, to an absolute tragedy that on the face of it I think Cathy and Ian were harshly criticised for to the achievement of the second summiting. A remarkable lady for sure.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-30-17

thought provoking enjoyable read

great read , well narrated, and makes you see all the angles of climbing a mountain

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ali S.
  • 05-20-17

Good read

I have read a lot of mountaineering books and this is refreshing in the way that it is as much about the human interactions in the expeditions as the climbing. I'd have liked just a little more about the mountain though, as some parts of the route are skipped over so quickly that I kept going back in case I'd dozed off and missed a bit. I couldn't really warm to the narrator whose voice doesn't sound like it belongs to someone who ventures up mountains and lacks passion for the subject, but it didn't detract too much from the story.

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  • CSP
  • 03-15-16

Not just for climbers

A fascinating view of what makes people challenge themselves Cathy on Everest but it might be someone challenging themselves to get fitter or anything else. Cathy writes in a nicely paced style with witty asides and also thrilling details of her climbing life all over the world but mainly in the Himalaya. I was a rock climber before disability stopped that and her descriptive writing reminded me of why I used to do it and the thrills and excitement of climbing.

The narration is nicely done my openly slight criticism is I kept trying to change Stevies accent into a South African one but her style is fresh and with enough enthusiasm in her voice to express the story really well.

All in all a great listen.

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