Monday, February 11, 2013

Vying for Glory

One interesting aspect of the latter half of Blum's Annapurna was how the members of the team all vied so energetically to be part of the select few who would summit the mountain at the very end. All of the women had worked many years for this, so it was understandable, but I also wondered why some of them didn't take the approach Herzog's team had. Members of his team viewed Herzog and Lachenal summiting the mountain as a team experience regardless if they were the ones to touch the top or not. I guess I could say I was impressed with the competitive fire and drive the women had. Blum especially was tested because of her role as the leader. She notes several times that the climbers wanted a strong, direct leader, but also wanted to have a say in major discussions. She also had to mediate between the climbers and the Sherpas, which sometimes proved dangerous, as evidenced by the rock-throwing incident. The Sherpa strike could have been potentially catastrophic, and although no one was really pleased with the results, Blum felt a sigh of relief when the situation was resolved.
Herzog and a few of his men had to deal with frostbite, but Blum and her team faced the reality of death. It re-opened my eyes to the dangers of climbing; it isn't all so merry and cheerful and full of camaraderie. Nature is volatile and unforgiving, the avalanches prove that. If the avalanches were sporadic and dangerous enough to make life-long climbers think twice about continuing, then you know death is eminent. Blum beautifully articulates the sense of camaraderie the women felt when she shared how she dreamed she was with Alison and Vera K. She writes, "Or I dreamed I felt a tug from behind, was pulled out of my steps, tried but failed to hold on with my ice axe--falling, over and over. Sometimes I dreamed an avalanche falling on us all. I woke up sobbing and cried for the rest of the night." (Blum 220) The reality of death is inescapable for the climbers. That reality was lightly touched upon in the earlier stages of the book, but hits in full force when the climbers must come to terms with the deaths of their comrades.
I appreciated how the team of climbers crossed generations. The ages ranged from 21 to 50, which is really a testament to the length of a climber's life. Blum says that a climber's peak is in her 30's, in which most women are raising children. But her expedition proves it is not the case; women of all ages get to showcase their climbing prowess. It put things into perspective for me now; some of these women could still be climbing.

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