Monday, April 1, 2013


One aspect of Tabor's account that I found fascinating was his keen detail to the fitness and body statistics of the climbers. I guess my view on appropriate body weight was skewed because I forgot climbers have to be exceptionally lightweight and fit in order to endure these harsh conditions. Tabor mentions multiple times that a slighter frame is indeed a benefit when climbing McKinley rather than a detriment, which clearly emphasizes the strain on someone like Jerry Lewis, who is six foot five. This focus on measurements underlined the scientific nature of the text, in which numbers play an important role. Still, it surprised me how several of the climbers were over six feet tall yet were only 155-160ish pounds. To me that seems incredibly, almost unhealthily thin. It seems weird writing this, but these adventure stories have given me a mildly distorted view of body image- or at least it made me feel kinda fat.

The amount of food the climbers had to consume to maintain their energy for climbing was insane. Tabor describes Howard's eating habits at one point, and my jaw just drops. "He doubled manufacturers' recommended portions, and his final plan included 2.67 pounds of food per man per day." (Tabor 244) Even though the author says this was deceptive, going down the list of the typical dinner was still eye-opening. The ridiculous amounts of calories one needs to climb became more apparent to me. Carrying the food also adds extra weight. Tabor repeats fairly often the weight of the packs each man was carrying, and how the group would ostracize members that carried less than their fair share of weight. This was just one of the contributing factors to the dissolution of the group and the failure of the expedition.

Tabor keep's the climbers' current fitness levels in mind when he interviews them. "Paul is still six feet four, and has friendly blue eyes and thinning sandy hair. He keeps his weight down to about 220 pounds with 150-mile bike rides and long mountain hikes, making sure to do one or two "fourteeners" every year." (Tabor 352) This laborious detail to fitness and physique seems to present almost a romanticized view of the athlete or climber's body. Tabor presents the body as something to be glorified or admired, at least in my mind. It's no accident that he mentions physical attributes of the men at every turn. I felt that this focus on the physical states of the men detracted from the damaging psychological aspects of the book.

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