Isabel Suppe.
Isabel Suppe. (J V O Weaver)

If You Go

What: Isabel Suppé book presentation "Starry Night"

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3

Where: Outdoor Divas, 2317 30th St., Boulder




Climber Isabel Suppé was near the summit of Ala Izquierda, a 17,761-foot peak in Bolivia, when her climbing partner Peter Wiesenekker slipped and blew out their anchors in July 2010.

They fell 400 meters and spent the next two nights exposed to the elements. Suppé, who'd broken her right ankle, tried to crawl to safety and was rescued on the second day. Her partner died from hypothermia.

Suppé, 34, tells this tale and the story of her recovery — which included 14 surgeries so far — in her new book "Starry Night." She'll talk about the book at Outdoor Divas in Boulder on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.

How did you pick the title for your book, "Starry Night?"

Picking a title is always very hard. When I finally thought of "Starry Night," I knew I had found the perfect title because for one thing, when I was sitting on the glacier with my bone sticking out, not knowing whether or not I was going to make it out of there alive, at some point I caught myself looking at the stars. For a second I just totally forgot my situation and I just felt moved by the beauty of the starry sky. After that, when I'm thinking back, I actually think that's wonderful. It's very consoling to know that we should be able to be moved by beauty even in such a desperate situation. I think that ability is what makes us more human.


Then I always very much liked Van Gogh and in particular his painting "Starry Night." Van Gogh was locked up in a lunatic asylum, and he was in there because his brother felt he needed to be protected from his own madness. I always saw this painting as an expression of the dangerous beauty of freedom, because he was looking out the window and painting that outside world that was beautiful, but at the same time he knew it was dangerous to him.

How does your ankle feel now, three years after your accident?

Isabel Suppé climbs on an indoor wall — despite breaking her ankle after falling 400 meters from a Bolivian peak in 2010. Suppé will talk about her
Isabel Suppé climbs on an indoor wall — despite breaking her ankle after falling 400 meters from a Bolivian peak in 2010. Suppé will talk about her new book, "Starry Night," at Outdoor Divas in Boulder on Tuesday 6 p.m. (Courtesy photo)

It doesn't hurt any more. I am able to get out of bed in the morning and go and get a glass of water without any pain, and that's something huge. That's something I was not able to do last year. But it's not perfect and it never will be. Now I can finally walk without crutches. Once I go into the mountains with a big heavy backpack, I'm going to use my crutches because they help me with my backpack.

What are you hoping people take away from reading your book?

I hope that people remember that having a physical problem just never means that we can't do something. It just means we have to try harder and that they see that as long as there's creativity, there's almost always a way of finding a different solution.

How close were you with your climbing partner who died, Peter Wiesenekker?

We had just met in La Paz a couple of days before.

Was it tough thinking back to that night in Bolivia when you were writing the book?

It was, but at the same time, it was also necessary. When you go through something like that, something that's so life changing and also, of course, pretty traumatic, you need to somehow find a way of mentally digesting the events. And the way of doing that for me is writing.

I've always been a writer ever since I was a little kid. I started to write some of the chapters of "Starry Night" in October 2010 because I started to write while I was in the hospital. My heel was pierced by a metal hook and was just hanging in the air so I was pretty much tied down to my bed and writing was my means of escape.

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