I was struck by the significance of Buddhism in the lives of the female climbers after their departure from Annapurna. A trend of living in the now, appreciating the fragility of life, and the sacred nature of living things appeared in multiple women’s reflections on the lessons learned from their experience on Annapurna. They each seemed to accredit their worldview, perhaps spirituality, to the constant, imminent threat of avalanches and traumatic deaths of fellow climbers that they had experienced. I think that one does not have to experience such extreme examples of life’s fragility and beauty in order to metamorphose into an individual who sees the world as these women do.
Several times in the story, Blum describes her affection for the isolated, authentic communities that emerge in remote settings. I understand this reverence for a type of culture that can only exist beyond the tentacles of technology and culture that creep into our interpersonal interactions. I think that the wilderness cultural environment is inseparable from a greater sense of presence in the moment and appreciation for non-human places. I have found myself on several occasions becoming reacquainted with the foundations of Buddhism and wondering if perhaps my experiences in the wilderness might be feeding my enthusiasm for learning about this religion.
I think that there is much to be said about the role that Buddhism plays in these women’s experiences on Annapurna. They prey alongside the Sherpas when asking for protection from the mountain’s spirits and again when holding a memorial for the lost climbers. I think that this connection with the spirituality and culture of the place they are visiting reflects the openness that these women feel towards other cultures, which was most certainly not evident in the Annapurna expedition several decades prior.