Tuesday, March 12, 2013


An adventure is often more a test of endurance, mental or physical,  than anything else.  It doesn't matter if you have the greatest planning, preparation, or anything else if you are not hard enough to endure whatever you are facing.  And I truly believe that this hardness and ability to endure is something that is mental.  The will to survive is exactly that, a will, an internal mental process.  If that inner fortitude is at all tarnished it can make something as simple as getting out of bed the greatest challenge of a lifetime.  However, simple things like a smile from a friend or child who looks up to you can also make you confident enough that climbing Everest or jumping over a massive crevasse is as easy as putting on your socks.  It is that little bit of motivation and support that means absolutely everything in the face of adversity.
 I did not feel that Stickeen was about Muir or the dog.  I felt that it was about how important you can be to another individual if you take the time and effort to help them through a tough moment.  Muir did not have to save the little pup, but he did and gained a great companion for it.  During an adventure or an expedition everybody needs someone to say that everything is going to be alright to help them across that narrow ice bridge.  This story shows just how mentally daunting a solo trip can be.


  1. I think you've discovered an interesting way to look at the stories we've been reading. I think we've seen in many instances, including Stickeen, how much strength adventurers can gain from having another individual depending on them. In Touching the Void, Yates discovers an amazing reserve of strength that enables him to mount an impressive and heroic rescue effort after Simpson breaks his leg. "Stickeen" reinforces the ways in which an adventure can strengthen a partnership.

  2. I agree with both of you - most of the texts we've read have told the stories of adventuring teams, but self-reliance and individualism they contain have been a consistent, and often negative, talking point in class. As we saw in the SImpson and Yates partnership, the knowledge that another life is dependent on one's own has a profound effect on a person and that relationship. I think that effect is made even more striking in the case of "Stickeen" because of the norm of valuing human lives above those of dogs. It would have been easy for Muir to leave Stickeen across the crevasse, and simply say that the dog ran away when he returned to camp. But in Muir's understanding of Stickeen's fear, we see the self-reliant adventurer accept responsibility for a tagalong's life, and commit himself to Stickeen's survival. I think that one of the big reasons that we generally liked this story.