Monday, April 8, 2013

So we climbed a mountain...

Reading Scrambles Amongst the Alps started to bring us full circle back to Herzog’s Annapurna. Whymper sets out with a very defined goal—namely, in the sections we read, to summit the Matterhorn. Judging by his 7 attempts before any sort of victory, his climb was evidently about the summit, not the journey. This is, however, not to say that he did not appreciate being in nature, but his "so what" seemed entirely goal oriented. He says directly, “The Matterhorn was ours!” (Whymper, 364) when he reaches the top, presenting what almost seems like a parody of how climbers take ownership of mountains and climb to conquer. When talking about Forever on the Moutain, we discussed whether a book which solely stated the facts would sell. Whymper himself states the importance of "precision" (154) even when disproving the weather or in this case the timing of thunder in relationship to lightening. In a previous post about Forever on the Mountain, I commented on how I kept typing "novel" accidentally. In this post I certainly would not make that mistake.
Whymper’s book almost works simultaneously as a guide to climbing, giving precise tips such as how to climb with a rope. He says, “About 12 feet between each is sufficient. If there are only two or three persons, it is prudent to allow a little more—say 15 feet… "(349). Needless to say this paragraph was not written to increase dramatic tension, and I don’t think we could have a very simulating conversation about whether Whymper is telling the “truth.” I am glad this books was placed here in the syllabus because it took me away from the embellishment and questions of morality which kept bringing our class discussions in circles and reminded me that in some ways, climbing a mountain Is, well, just that.
However as dry as much of this book is, Whymper also answers our question “why climb” and “is it worth it” in the most direct manner we have seen thus far. In the final chapter he writes, “We glory in the physical regeneration which is the product of our exertions; we exult over the grandeur of the scenes that are brought before our eyes, the splendors of sunrise and sunset” (379) Out of no where comes this poetic, convincing justification of what adventuring means to him. Although I have been far more intrigued by other stories, this paragraph came as a nice surprise at the end of a slow read, so at the end I did feel not only relieved to be done but also somewhat satisfied.

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