Tuesday, March 5, 2013
A climbing addiction
We've talked about how anticlimactic reaching the summit is in all of the other texts, but Simpson is the first to really elaborate on the significance of this anticlimax. He writes, "What now? It was a vicious circle. If you succeed with one dream, you come back to square one and it's not long before you're conjuring up another, slightly harder, a bit more ambitious - a bit more dangerous. I didn't like the thought of where it might be leading me. As if, in some strange way, the very nature of the game was controlling me, taking me towards a logical but frightening conclusion" (53). His description of this "vicious cycle" made me think about drug dependency. For instance, I've heard that people receive the best high their first time doing cocaine. After that, the high is never as good, and this is one of the reasons people get addicted. They continue to take the drug in order to replicate that initial high, but they never do. Therefore, (although there are obviously other scientific causes of drug addiction) one of the causes is a sense of dissatisfaction and a hope that another attempt will yield desired results. This is very similar to the process Simpson describes. It makes me wonder whether Simpson, Krakauer, and the rest need to climb because climbing fulfills them or because it provides a glimpse of fulfillment or the hope that a satisfied life is possible. When each successive summit fails to be life-changing, the climber instinctively looks to the next highest peak as the answer to his or her problems. And so the vicious cycle of addiction begins.
On another note, in the "Ten Years On..." postscript Simpson writes about the public criticism of Simon's decision to cut the rope. He writes, "Even so, the misinformed opinions of some armchair adventurers were never going to worry either of us for long"(206). I was surprised by the disdain with which he seems to refer to "armchair adventurers," especially since his book is largely written for the armchair adventurer audience.