Book Review: Dangling Without a Rope

| May 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

Dangling Without a Rope: A Life Discovered, by Barbara Belmont

Review by Sharry Miller

“I became aware of the fine line between life and death and how I walked it every moment of my existence.” It didn’t take much to teach Barbara “Bobbe” Belmont this lesson in her early twenties, just sliding down an icy slope on Grand Teton and embedding an ice axe in her face. It was the first of many lessons she learned during a life filled with adventure.

In DangDanglingCOVERling Without a Rope: A Life Discovered, Bobbe shares eleven of the many stories she’s told over the years about her escapades during the 1970s and 80s, decades when women were grasping their destinies with both hands and insisting on their political, economic, and social rights. Bobbe’s life echoed this movement as she dove into exploring the world on her own terms, in a way women had only begun to do.

From the Tetons to Nepal, Alaska to Bali, Yosemite to Iran, Bobbe took risks, made mistakes, nearly died more than once, and learned, eventually, to come to grips with her mortality. She explored the world with skis, climbing boots, and canoes, often following men who got her into situations where she never belonged, but which taught her just how tough she really was. Writing decades after the events occurred, Bobbe peppers her stories with insights gained after years of reflection.

The last essay in the book, “Seeking the Sacred Jaguar,” describes Bobbe truly fighting for her life. Failed by her doctors at home and overwhelmed by a mysterious illness that not only left her physically incapacitated but mentally disoriented, in 1996 Bobbe sought diagnosis and treatment from the curanderos of Belize. Seeking healing from herbalists, the ocean and its creatures, and anything else she can think of that might bring peace and comfort, Bobbe eventually heads to the jungle in search of a Mayan healer. She ends up on a quest for a jaguar.

“The jaguar had come to me and given me the courage that would carry me through the remainder of my life.” She needed that courage. It took eight years, but she finally received a diagnosis for her mysterious illness: Lyme Disease. Despite having a disease that was ravaging her nervous system, heart, lungs, and connective tissue, Bobbe continued to climb mountains, run rivers, and ride trails with as much energy as she could muster. To add insult to injury, in 2008 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She continues to battle both diseases with the courage of a jaguar.


Sharry Miller is a writer, glass and mixed media artist, and state government employee in Valdez, Alaska. A life-long Alaskan, she loves to explore her region, and the world, on foot and bicycle. She blogs about living her life with bold enthusiasm at

Sharry is a key member of the Women’s Adventure book club. Join the club to discuss your thoughts on Dangling Without a Rope and other adventurous reads:

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