Monday, February 17, 2014

Commercializing the Climb one Description at a Time

While reading the first half of Krakauer’s narrative, I couldn't stop thinking about how much the narrative differs from Herzog’s. While Herzog glosses over descriptions of his climbing-mates, Krakauer paints a vivid picture of his fellow climbers, the guides, the locals, and other expeditions around him. He answers questions that readers, like myself, want to know when he reveals details about his wife, Linda, and her thoughts on his climb. He takes himself out of the narrative almost completely, and when he does reflect on his own experiences and emotions, I am surprised by what he says. “Problem was, my inner voice resembled Chicken Little: it was screaming that I was about to die, but it did that almost every time I laced up my climbing boots” (Krakauer, p. 81). I cannot imagine Herzog writing this which is fitting because Krakauer’s narrative leaves little up to the imagination.

What effect does this tell all narrative have on one’s perception of climbing some of the tallest mountains in the world? First, Krakauer’s narrative makes climbing seem harder--at least to someone like me with little experience--than Herzog’s. Second, Krakauer’s descriptions of those people around them--and their motivations--send the message that climbing is for everyone. For most of the people surrounding Krakauer, the climb is more than a climb, or so it seems. While looking at people’s different motivations for the climb, Krakauer opens up the conversation about mountaineering to armchair adventurers, while exposing the commercialization of mountaineering spurred by armchair adventurers, like Krakauer himself. Krakauer is part of the commercialization of climbing. He is sent on the expedition to write about the commercialization of climbing, and the success of his book--that suggests any average Joe can climb Mount Everest--has surely contributed to the commercialization of climbing. Is there something wrong with the commercialization of climbing?

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