"I was aware that we are all stronger than we can possibly imagine"

A Test of Will: One Man's Extraordinary Story of Survival - Warren MacDonald

“I was aware that we are all stronger than we can possibly imagine and that strength is gained from pushing beyond what is known, what is comfortable”

Warren Macdonald was an avid outdoorsman, experienced Mountaineer and environmentalist when he set out for what was supposed to be a two day (there-and-back) climb up Mount Bowen on Hinchinbrook Island in Australia. Little did he know these would be his last steps he would ever take as a “complete” human being. His little jaunt up the mountain turns suddenly into a nightmare when a massive 1 ton slab of rock breaks free and in a “wrong place, wrong time” moment traps Warren beneath it.

Along with flashbacks into Warren’s life the majority of this memoir alternates POV’s between Warren’s 48 hour struggle for survival beneath the rock and his hiking companion Geert van Keulen’s harrowing 11 hour race back down the mountain to find help. With a broken pelvis and barely able to move Warren manages to fight off drowning (as the creek bed he’s lying in fills with water) the elements, pain, fear, insanity and even death. And just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse, as Warren puts it “A bad movie gets worse”

Near the end of his ordeal Warren ends up using a stick to fight off yabbies (Australian crayfish) that have started eating his dying legs and feet. Not long after he feels a stinging sensation in his groin and chest area, and realizes a colony of ants has found a new and delicious home, “one with a steady food supply…him.” At this point I don’t know how Warren maintained his sanity, it was hard enough to read. I should add that his companion Geert’s journey back down the mountain is equally gripping and added a great perspective to the story.

I won’t be spoiling anything (he lets you know on the very first page) by telling you that Warren is rescued yet ultimately looses both his legs. A large part of this read also deals with his time in hospital, rehab and learning to deal with his new reality. Which I might add he exceeds at. Warren’s road to recovery was equally as motivating and uplifting as his survival story.

I’m always amazed at what the human spirit is capable of enduring when it comes right down to it And this is a fascinating example of courage, strength of spirit and sheer determination. Now a motivational speaker Warren has since become the first above knee amputee to reach the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. He also swims, surfs and has learned to walk again.

The writing and editing here is good unlike a lot of survival memoirs I’ve read although towards the end we do get a ton of name dropping -which is great for Warren’s friends I suppose but not so interesting for the reader. Also contains 4 pages of photographs and a map of Australia showing Hinchinbrook Island and Mt Bowen.