Krakauer’s narrative presents a variety of motivations for his Devil’s Thumb expedition. While reasoning in part derived from “a scheme for righting what was wrong” in his life (6), Krakauer’s reference to John Menlove Edwards perhaps suggests a drive from his neurological hard-wiring. Dr. Edwards, a writer, psychiatrist, and British climber, spoke of climbing as a “psycho-neurotic tendency” used to assuage inner disturbance (6). Edwards’s prose expresses his mind’s search for “reality intensely” (7); such writing reaffirmed Krakauer’s desire to flee to Alaska. While Krakauer acknowledges Edwards as only one of many inspirations, Edwards’s rather extreme ideas seem to gain validity the more I consider their implications. I do not feel Edward’s assertion suggests that all climbers are mentally disturbed, persay, but a vast array of known explorers, dead and alive, indeed express a sort of inner turmoil or mental discontent. A trip to the mountain, many believe, will assuage these feelings.
Take Christopher McCandless. In Into the Wild, Krakauer openly empathizes with McCandless’s struggles and qualms with the workings of society. I view McCandless as a bit more of an extremist, however, for Krakauer’s writing fails to express a comparable distaste for capitalism and rejection of material desires. However, both youths sought out Alaska as a refuge and potentially life-changing experience. Both encountered life-threatening circumstances, many by their own accord. I am apprehensive to call either reckless or ill-prepared, but getting high and setting your tent on fire seems pretty careless, especially in such a dangerous environment. For McCandless, his refusal to pack sufficient provisions and his complete reliance on the land with limited knowledge proved fatal.
Contemplating the intense personalities of both men, I obviously have to question: Why do I climb? I would hope to not qualify my hobby as “psycho-neurotic”, for no significant inner turmoil or unrest exists (to my knowledge). I would like to derive reasoning beyond my appreciation for the aesthetic beauty of nature and fondness of physical activity. So then what? What deeper motivation do I possess? To be honest, I don’t know. To say one “enjoys” a particular activity without viable explanation seems relatively empty and meaningless. Perhaps the emotion that accompanies enjoyment, similarly unarticulated, validates the underlying incentive.