Fragile Edge: Loss on Everest


183 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-55017-218-2
DDC 796.52'2'092





Reviewed by Monika Rohlmann

Monika Rohlmann is an environmental consultant in Yellowknife, Northwest


In 1982, Maria Coffey’s relationship with internationally acclaimed
mountaineer Joe Tasker came to a tragic end when Tasker died on Everest,
the mountain he revered. The obsession that drove her partner to risk
his life with a rare winter ascent of Everest’s east-north-east ridge
puzzled the author, who was not a climber herself.

Coffey starts by recounting how she first met Joe Tasker and by
describing his friends, his house, and his work. She also lays her own
life bare with stories about past boyfriends, work assignments (she was
teacher), and family relations. Coffey explores her insecurities about
not being able to join Tasker in his mountaineering ventures and her
struggles with Tasker’s inability to fully commit to a relationship
(he’d always said that only the mountains had his heart). In the wake
of the deaths of Tasker and his companion, Peter Boardman, Coffey must
deal with the loss of what might have been and with the loss of what had
been shared. Her pilgrimage to Everest in the company of Boardman’s
widow occupies the second half of the book, which includes
black-and-white photographs taken during Tasker’s 1982 climb.

This passionate, sensitive, and moving book affords a rare picture of
the effects of climbing-related deaths on the families and lovers left


Coffey, Maria., “Fragile Edge: Loss on Everest,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,