Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hierarchies of Success and Failure

What most interested me about The White Spider and what I wrote my paper on was Harrer's insistence that the personal aspects of mountain climbing - the obligations and bonds that one forms with one's fellow climbers - matters more in terms of success than actually summiting the mountain.  Even though the climbers failed to reach the top in 1936 and all four of them died, their willingness to put aside their personal and national pride to form a single, cohesive rope that committed to helping the injured member of the team, as opposed to abandoning him in favor of a summit push, Harrer regards the attempt as a success.  In short, he attempts to show that how a person climbs not what they climb is the most important thing.

Harrer emphasizes the importance of the relationships forged between climbers during attempts on the North Face of the Eiger.  As such, he manages to locate success even in the midst of the numerous failures and tragedies that littered the North Face throughout the years.  For example, he views the personal bonds that grew between the members of the 1936 expedition as the most notable aspect of their climb.  Although the 1936 attempt ended in the death of all four climbers, the ability of the men to overcome personal and national pride - Angerer and Rainer were Austrian and Hintersoisser and Kurz were Bavarian - to form a single, cohesive unit outweighs the nature of their deaths.  Instead of climbing as separate teams of two, they decided to rope up as a foursome: “The rope joining them was no longer a dead length of hemp for them but, as it were, a living artery, seeming to say: ‘for better or for worse, we belong together’” (38).  This bond proved to be exceptionally strong, for Kurz and Hinterstoisser “never thought of leaving Rainer behind with an injured man [Angerer]” (40).  “The Austrians did not want to rob the other two of their chance of reaching the top,” so they continued to climb together and, when Angerer could climb no higher, began to descend together (40).  In recognizing that “a human being was more important than the mere ascent of a mountain face,” Kurz, Hinterstoisser, and Rainer demonstrated exemplary selflessness (40).  Though their climb ended in death, their commitment to their fellow climbers made their attempt a success. 

1 comment:

  1. I like this a lot because it shows how climbing is both a selfish sport in that many people do it to be the first or greatest to do something, but also for the comradery. As much as people climb for the pride and the ability to say what they ahve accomplished, a much deeper and more significant aspect of climbing exists also and it is found in the self discovery and bonds forged during a climb. People talk about attacking a mountain because, I feel, that it is an apt metaphor. Attacks and mountain climbs need to be well planned and carefully executed and this requires reliance on self and one's teammates. However, after seeing the video about the speed climb of the Eiger, I now think that the sport is transitioning into that of a more selfish motives. A speed climb is more about getting somewhere quickly and less about experiencing the mountain.