Sunday, 28 February 2016

Book Review: Holding On by Jo Gambi

Being the first married couple to complete the 'seven summits', Rob and Jo Gambi's story is interesting given that Rob has twice suffered from serious bouts of cancer - and once came very close to death stranded high in the Himalayas. The cancer has not stopped them from living life with an incredible intensity.

My Review:
Rob has recovered from cancer when he meets Jo but when it returns, painful treatment takes its toll and he and Jo decide to take time away from work to travel and spend more time together while he is in remission. The insane idea of doing the Seven Summits occurs-climbing the highest mountain on each continent. On a training climb in Nepal, Rob takes ill and is in danger of dying as they first cannot get a weather window to get him off the mountain and secondly, conditions and staff at the hospital are shocking. Reading about nurses assaulting Rob as he resists treatment with unsterile equipment, random strangers wandering in to gawp at him, filthy conditions, cleaners doing medical procedures and Jo standing guard to fend off the determined nurses is pretty horrific!

They start their task with Denali, which has weather conditions that I'd never want to experience. The hairy flight in, dragging sledges packed with gear across snow hiding huge crevasses, sickness, biting winds, sub zero temperatures, a mountain from hell to I don't think it is my idea of fun! Only a lucky break in the weather brings them success. They follow with trips to Africa, Antartica (with a guide who has no polar experience), a hike to the South Pole,, then off to Argentina.

Seriously, I don't know where they got the strength to do this in such a short space of time, pushing Rob's health to the limit. I can understand why friends and family thought they weren't having enough rest time in between. Seven weeks after Argentina, they arrive at Everest. The description of that brutal climbing season was not for the fainthearted. Madness and summit fever have usually sensible people ready to kill themselves to get to the top. Jo's account of the struggle is pretty grim and I can't say that I wanted to switch places with her.

This was a good book. The health struggles and the tough tasks that they set for themselves were fascinating to read about, even if I thought they were a bit mad at times. I hope that Rob is still in remission after all of his cancer treatments as they were a really nice couple.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png


  1. Sounds like a good book, but also hard to read with all they go through and the horrible hospital experience, the cancer struggle and the whole mountain climbing thing. I don't think this is a book for me though. Great review!

    1. It doesn't go deeply into the cancer side of things. It's more about their inspiring idea of the climbs, the fear of sickness returning and the horrors of hygiene in Nepal with his unrelated illness. It was pretty good to read.

  2. Replies
    1. It was surprisingly light on the really dark things like the cancer. I found it kind of uplifting in areas!