Tuesday, February 5, 2013

After beginning the course with "The Devil's Thumb," "Annapurna" gives us the first taste of the importance--and extreme difficulties--that come with teamwork.  Surely, no expedition of this difficulty could be done solo, but the addition of the whole party, climbers, doctors, liaison officers, and sherpas alike, also adds an entirely new psychological element to the climb.  Where Krakouer embarked solely on a battle with the natural elements, his only relationship to other humans was that of lacking, and thus loneliness. While Herzog's crew spends many a night at the camp, sipping tea, and letting conversation flow freely, there are also tense moments, and moments where pride must be sacrificed for the good of the crew--the presence of others can combat the lowest moments of solitude we see in "Devils Thumb," but it is not without problems too.

As we see at the "Council of War," there is a great tension in the camp because each man must now confront his personal psychological battle with nature, and temper it to match the group consensus.  Where some are so feverishly stuck on the idea of summitting that they are willing to take risks, others recognize that their original goals are simply unfeasible--we see the room go quiet at each man contemplates his willingness to put forth an opinion that would put the group in danger in search of selfish gain, or one that plays it safe at the expense of another man's ambition.

In other passages, we see the opposite effect--where the stakes are slightly lower, "everyone has his own idea, and he insisted on putting it forward." In the slightly safer confines of base camp, this process is useful and certain to make every man feel included; out an a reconnaissance mission, however, we see that this can often be counterproductive. On page 94, we see Terray, Lechanel, Rebuffat, and Herzog engage in an argument about the difficulty of carrying their own gear as Herzog had made the call to leave the sherpas behind.  Herzog felt speed was in their best interest, Terray felt that the other two should not be complaining, while Lechanel and Rebuffat voiced legitimate concerns that the extra weight would sap their strength, rending the whole plan futile anyways. On the mountain with snow coming down, everyone's opinion could not be weighted, and Herzog needed to make a judgment call--for the exploration to continue successfully, the other man must possess enormous self-control in accepting the decision and immediately letting go of any resentment, so as not to let their moods towards others create a toxic environment in camp.  As they near the summit, no doubt fear and excitement will only give rise to more tension, and among the many physical traits the men need to possess, certainly mental strength and self restraint in their relationships are just as important. 

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