Book Review: Holding Fast, the untold story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James
If reading opens new worlds, I stepped into a brand new one this week when I read “Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy” by Karen James. Most of us remember the Mount Hood climbing accident just before Christmas in 2006. Three experienced mountain climbers were lost for over a week before the lifeless body of Kelly James, Karen James’ husband, was found in a hand-dug snow cave on the side of the mountain. As a nation, we held our collective breath hoping for a Christmas miracle, a live rescue, or the rescue of Kelly’s two missing climbing partners. We did not receive that Christmas miracle.
Karen James decided to write her account of the harrowing days of Kelly’s climb, accident and death. In the process she has given us an inspiring glimpse of the faithfulness of God’s care even in the darkest night. Each of the three climbers — Kelly James, Brian Hall and Nikko Cooke — had a deep personal faith in God, and it shines through each page of their story. Kelly was a man who lived his life in every sense of the word: full of adventure and risk, declaring the Glory of God on the high summits of the world.
The true story of the climbing tragedy was pieced together in the days and months following the tragic events on Mount Hood. Karen and Kelly’s four children painstakingly gathered details together to understand how experienced climbers could find themselves injured and in a deathly situation on the side of Mount Hood. While not many of us will ever step foot on a mountain the way Kelly James did, his story is a testimony and a metaphor for conquering the mountains in our life. I was stuck like glue to this book for most of the weekend, and at the end of it I feel like I have lost a friend. But that friend holds the gift of hope in his hands, and holds it out shimmering to anyone who reads this book.
Kelly’s faith will inspire others to reconnect with the God who made them. Can there be a higher purpose or a greater reward?